Mississippi school district changes religious ‘Goals and Beliefs’ statement

Clinton Public Schools [Clinton, Miss.] included as part of its mission and vision statements a “Goals and Beliefs” statement, which contained religious language. The statement in relevant part read: “We believe . . . Faith in God is the cornerstone of our community.” At least one of the schools in the district showcased this statement of belief on its website, naming “Faith in God” first out of a list of 12 other values.

Rebecca Markert, FFRF staff attorney, said in a letter to the district [July 8, 2010]: “It is well settled that public schools may not advance or promote religion. . . . Listing ‘Faith in God’ as an important value violates the First Amendment because it imposes religious sentiments upon students and their parents within the school district. . . . This statement clearly demonstrates that the school not only prefers religion over non-religion but also religious students over non-religious students.”  Markert noted that the district’s “promotion of religion over nonreligion impermissibly turns any non-believing Clinton Public School student, parent, teacher or staff member into an outsider.”

FFRF received a response from the district superintendent [Nov. 15, 2010]: “The Clinton Board of Trustees voted to delete our ‘belief’ statements from our strategic plan and to remove it totally from our mission and vision statements. . . . It has been pulled from our district and local websites, our boardroom, and I am currently reviewing all documents to make sure that the belief statements are not posted in any official document.” — Bonnie Gutsch

Freedom From Religion Foundation