School steered toward religious neutrality (September 24, 2015)

The Avon (Ind.) Community School Corp. has taken corrective action regarding an inappropriate religious assembly that students were required to attend.

A Sept. 9 assembly titled “Stay In Your Lane” was mandatory for Avon High School sophomores. Two speakers from the group “Steered Straight” told their stories of recovering from drug addiction, stories that were laced with religion.

One speaker told students, “Someone wanted me on this Earth” while pointing to the ceiling and discussed angels watching over him. The other said, “I pray to God that you get this message.” The wife of one of the speakers also reportedly told students that “God has a purpose for you.”

Staff Attorney Sam Grover’s Sept. 17 letter noted: “Steered Straight’s Facebook page has several spiritual posts that should have alerted the district to the potential religious nature of [the] presentation. Regardless of the motives of the presenters or those who invited them, allowing an organization access to your student body to promote a religious message gives the appearance that the district endorses that message.”

In a Sept. 24 reply, Superintendent Margaret Hoernemann said the district would discuss separation of state and church with administrators “as a timely reminder of our commitment to remaining neutral toward religion.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation