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Columbia Missouri employee reminded of constitutional obligation (January 25, 2019)

A Columbia Public Schools employee has been reminded of his obligation to refrain from leading or participating in religious clubs at school.

A concerned district community member reported that a teacher and basketball coach at Gentry Middle School had been actively leading a Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) club at the school for several years. FCA is a Christian organization whose mission is to “lead every coach and athlete into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and his church.”

FFRF Legal Fellow Colin McNamara wrote to Superintendent Peter Stiepleman, alerting him to this teacher’s unlawful leadership of the club.

The district investigated the matter and spoke with the teacher. “We reiterated the school districts’ position,” the superintendent’s letter read, “that children may form religious clubs, but that teachers/staff, in their capacity as school employees, may not participate in or lead any type of religious clubs.”