Washington school district restructures religious flier policy

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, on June 18, wrote the University Place School District (University Place, Wash.) objecting that Drum Intermediate School sent home fliers to its young students advertising an evangelical Christian summer event. The Mount Cross Evangelical Lutheran Church coordinated with the school to send the fliers home in students’ homework, and there was no indication which organization (or if the school itself) was the sponsor. The advertisement called for children ages 4 through 5th grade to “trek through SonQuest Rainforest.” It promised “great times . . . lively songs, hilarious skits, creative crafts, exciting games, stories and tasty snacks,” but made no mention of the proselytizing purpose of the event. Foundation Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert wrote the superintendent (June 18, 2010) that without a proper disclaimer disassociating the school district from the religious event, “students and parents are apt to believe that the school is endorsing SonQuest Rainforest Camp and its religious message.” Even with a disclaimer, however, teachers are still forced to distribute religious promotional literature, which “sends a divisive message of community exclusion of those who hold minority religious views or who choose not to believe.” To avoid this divisiveness, Markert advised the district to amend its take-home flier policy to restrict third-parties and allow only school-sponsored events and organizations to make use of the service. The deputy superintendent responded (June 29, 2010): “As the individual responsible for this decision, I must apologize for my mistake. . . . Indeed, it does appear that we, as a district were endorsing this flyer and event. . . . We are in the process of reviewing the entire policy and procedures. Your letter has assisted in pushing this effort forward. . . . I can assure you that we will take the necessary steps that will stop potential entanglement between religion and our school district.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation