Letter stops preaching while teaching (June 2, 2015)

James Tillman, a science teacher at Douglas County High School, Douglasville, Ga., won’t be preaching anymore to his students during class time.

Around the end of April, Tillman had a discussion about God with a student during class time, FFRF was told. When an atheist student spoke up, Tillman quizzed the student on his atheism, eventually promising to give him a book that might change his mind. About two weeks later, Tillman gave the student two copies of his own book titled Are You Sure There Is No God? He had signed them “Be blessed.” The book is subtitled on Amazon.com as “A book of miracles including my warning from Jesus himself.”

Tillman also allegedly showed his class a YouTube video of him preaching at his church, Christian Life Center.

Staff Attorney Madeline Ziegler sent a letter May 26 asking the district to investigate Tillman’s behavior. “Public school employees are government actors and subject to the strictures of the Establishment Clause’s separation of church and state,” wrote Ziegler. “Teachers have access to a captive audience of students due to their position as public educators.”

FFRF also called for an investigation into Tillman’s role as the head of the school’s Christian club. “Given Tillman’s exceedingly inappropriate conduct in the incidents described above, we doubt his role with the First Priority Club is nonparticipatory as required by the Equal Access Act,” wrote Ziegler.

The superintendent replied June 2 that the principal reviewed the First Amendment with Tillman and was confident that “similar incidents” would not happen in the future.

Freedom From Religion Foundation