New York school drops Catholic shrine from field trip itinerary

The Foundation alerted the superintendent of Alexander Central School District [Alexander, N.Y.] to the unconstitutional repercussions of an upcoming 10th grade field trip to Washington, D.C., including a stop at the Catholic Seton Shrine in Maryland. FFRF sent its letter on Nov. 26, 2010, requesting that the field trip, scheduled for April 2011, drop the religious stop from its itinerary. “Including a stop at a Catholic Shrine, whose mission is for ‘visitors to [enrich] spiritually through their pilgrimage to the site where [Seton] taught, worked, prayed and died’ during a public school trip, appears to be an impermissible school endorsement and furthering of Catholic doctrine,” wrote Rebecca Markert, FFRF senior staff attorney. “The school district’s decision to include a Catholic shrine in the itinerary gives the message to Catholic participants that they are a favored group in the public school setting,” Markert noted. “The Constitution’s prohibition against school-sponsored religious activities cannot be overcome by claiming such activities are ‘voluntary.’ ” The district superintendent responded [Jan. 4, 2011] that the school “removed a stop at Seton Shrine from the itinerary.” — Bonnie Gutsch

Freedom From Religion Foundation