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School will no longer be subjected to religious promotion in school (February 13, 2019)

Decatur Public Schools students will no longer be subjected to religious promotion in school after a district parent reported a concerning partnership between E.J. Muffley Elementary School and Calvary Baptist Church. The parent reported numerous instances where, during the school day, Muffley Elementary teachers led students across the street to events at the church, at times facilitating the course of events.

Students were taken to the church and given free shoes and bags with “religious gospel tracts” inside. Another day, students were ushered to a “Trunk or Treat” event in the church parking lot and were given candy out of volunteers’ cars. Finally, the school reportedly held a “Winter Program” inside the church, where students were brought into the main sanctuary of the church where religious iconography lines the walls, including large Latin crosses, a Ten Commandments wall display, a nativity scene, a chalkboard with the message “Jesus thinks you are special” written on it, among other things.

FFRF Staff Attorney Ryan Jayne wrote to the school district’s attorney, reminding him that public school teachers “may not use their position to facilitate the church adopting the school as religious recruiting grounds, such as by bringing students to an ostensibly secular event and allowing the church to give students religious literature.”

The school’s attorney responded to FFRF, stating that the students will no longer be allowed to enter the sanctuary as part of a school-sponsored event, and, in any other room, religious iconography will be removed or covered up if the school uses the room.