Religious proselytization in Miss. school quashed (July 8, 2014)

Faculty members of Lamar County School District in Miss., will no longer be permitted to proselytize to students.

A concerned student of Sumrall Middle School contacted FFRF regarding proselytizing by faculty in April. Complaints were about a teacher who spoke on “why our country needs God,” and the “war on Christmas.” They were also about another teacher who held an Easter storytelling event invoking the rapture and the antichrist.

Acting on these reports, FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover wrote Superintendent Tess Smith in protest on June 20. In his letter, he noted serious constitutional concerns over the “pervasive culture of proselytization in the district,” citing recent issues with faculty participation in a prayer event at Sumrall Elementary School.

Furthermore, Grover stated: “Teachers have access to a captive audience of students due to their position as public educators. The District has a duty to prohibit religious proselytizing by teachers in the classroom,” and thus school district regulation of teaching materials are “not a violation of the free speech rights of teachers.”

Interim Superintendent Tess Smith responded to Grover’s letter on July 8,  and agreed to

“meet with each of the staff members mentioned including a follow up meeting with the school principal” and stated that she is “organizing an inservice for our school principals. . . [to] provide them with the necessary guidance to train their staff in the future regarding constitutional issues.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation