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Legal Advocacy Victories

Bibb County School District in Georgia will no longer have prayer at meetings (January 9, 2019)

FFRF has ensured that Bibb County School District will no longer include prayer in district-sponsored meetings.

A district employee reported that a mandatory employee meeting at Central High School last August began with a prayer that lasted between three and five minutes and invoked Jesus. The complainant also noted that this is not the first time they had been subjected to prayers at BCSD meetings.

FFRF’s Patrick O’Reiley Legal Fellow Chris Line wrote to the district’s legal counsel, asking the district to refrain from including prayers in meetings.

FFRF received a response from Chief Legal Counsel Randy Howard, indicating that the district has resolved the issue.

Kentwood (MI) substitute teacher won't pray with students (January 9, 2019)

FFRF received an exemplary response from a school district in Kentwood after reporting a substitute teacher praying with students in Kentwood Public Schools.

A concerned Southwood Elementary School parent contacted FFRF after a substitute teacher led third-grade students in prayer in the classroom. The complainant reported that after the class recited the Pledge of Allegiance, he told the class “when I was in third grade, we prayed.” He then proceeded to pray aloud, with many of the students joining in.

FFRF Legal Fellow Colin McNamara wrote to Superintendent Michael Zoerhoff, outlining the constitutional issues being violated.

Zoerhoff thanked FFRF for bringing this matter to his attention, and directed the district’s human resources department to investigate the incident. The district notified the substitute’s employer, and has enacted a plan to ensure that this violation will not happen again.


Quanah ISD halts prayer at graduations (January 8, 2019)

FFRF scored two victories for state/church separation in Quanah ISD. FFRF received records from the district which confirm that Quanah High School had a practice of scheduling prayers and religious remarks at its graduation ceremonies. Each graduation ceremony for the last three years has included a program identifying the event as a “Baccalaureate and Commencement” event. Each program has included a scheduled “invocation,” “scripture reading,” “baccalaureate address,” and “benediction.”

The complainant further informed FFRF that several district employees display Christian crosses on district property, in areas frequented by students and members of the public, including a cross on the wall of the Quanah High School principal’s office.

Associate Counsel Sam Grover sent a letter to Quanah ISD, alerting it to the unconstitutionality of both.

FFRF received a response from the district, stating that future graduation ceremonies will no longer include religious prayers and practices and the religious iconography has been removed from all district property.

Texas school district will no longer allow the distribution of bibles in its schools (January 8, 2019)

A Texas school district will no longer allow the distribution of bibles in its schools after intervention from FFRF. A concerned parent of a district student reported that Van Middle School allowed a group of outside adults access to the campus to distribute New Testament bibles to each fifth-grade student during the school day.

FFRF Associate Counsel Sam Grover wrote to Superintendent Don Dunn to ensure that this sort of illegal bible distribution does not take place in the future.

Dunn responded to FFRF’s letter with assurances that he has addressed the issue with the campus principal and has been assured that this bible distribution will not recur.

Filer School District in Idaho will not allow Gideons to distribute Bibles (January 8, 2019)

The infamous bible-distributing Gideons will not be allowed back in the Filer School District.

FFRF received a complaint that Gideons International, an organization whose mission is to spread Christian doctrine, was allowed to distribute bibles to students at Filer Intermediate School in November. The school also reportedly made a school-wide announcement over the PA system to promote distribution.

FFRF Associate Counsel Elizabeth Cavell sent a letter to Superintendent John Graham, alerting him to the situation. Cavell reminded the district of its constitutional obligation to remain neutral on matters of religion and to protect both its students’ and parents’ rights of conscience from religious proselytization on school property.

The superintendent has spoken with the staff at Filer Intermediate School and ensured that they would not allow the Gideons back on school property.

Jeromesville (OH) schools will no longer assign students religious projects (January 8, 2019)

A school district in Ohio will no longer assign students to complete religious Christmas projects, thanks to intervention from FFRF.

A concerned parent in the Hillsdale Local School District in Jeromesville reported that Hillsdale Elementary School required its students to complete a religious craft assignment last December. The project included a specifically religious message, “Jesus is the reason we celebrate the season.”

FFRF Legal Fellow Chris Line wrote the district to alert it to the unconstitutionality of such an assignment and ensure that, in the future, students are not required to complete explicitly religious projects.

Hillsdale Superintendent Steven Dickerson said in a response letter that “the matter had been addressed and [he] does’ not anticipate anything like this happening again.”

Davis (UT) school will no longer recite prayers at school events (January 7, 2019)

Corrective action has been taken to ensure that a Utah school district will no longer recite prayers at school events.

A concerned citizen reported that North Layton Junior High School in Farmington held a Veterans Day Assembly that included a Christian prayer delivered by the principal.

FFRF Legal Fellow Chris Line reminded the district that it is unlawful for any school-sponsored event to include prayer and asked that it ensure any future events do not include religion.

The district’s director of education equity sent a response to FFRF.

“Corrective action has been taken to address the situation with [the principal]. The Davis School District Legal Department has reviewed the State and District Policy: Recognizing Freedoms in Public Schools.”

Marlington Ohio school refrains from leading Youth 4 Christ club (January 7, 2019)

A teacher at Marlington High School has been instructed to refrain from leading Youth 4 Christ, a religious club at the school. While the teacher is listed as the “faculty advisor” for this club, the complainant reported that he also organizes and participates in the club’s events and activities.

FFRF Legal Fellow Chris Line wrote a letter to ensure that district staff members do not continue organizing or participating in religious student clubs.

The district sent a response letter informing FFRF that Marlington Local Superintendent Joe Knoll has spoken with the club advisor and shared the constitutional concerns presented by FFRF.

Hamblen County (TN) schools refrain from prayers at Veteran's event (January 4, 2019)

The superintendent of Hamblen County Schools has instructed all teachers and administrators to refrain from unconstitutional religious endorsement after a religious prayer was delivered “in Jesus’ name” during an in-school Veteran’s Day event.

FFRF Legal Fellow Chris Line sent a letter, lauding the district for organizing an event to honor veterans, but reminding the district that, in order to honor all veterans and their obligation to the Constitution, they may not include religious prayers in school events.

The superintendent assured in his response to FFRF that the district will “be more vigilant in [its] efforts to prevent activities that are unconstitutional or illegal.”

Hopkins County Schools in Kentucky halts proselytizing and prayer (January 4, 2019)

An employee in Hopkins County Schools reported that this year’s “Superintendent’s Day” was rife with religious proselytizing and prayer. “Superintendent’s Day” is a mandatory gathering for all district staff that is ostensibly for team-building and staff development.

The complainant reported several events that were highly religiously charged, including the reading of a biblical passage and a speech given that was based on the biblical story David and Goliath, among others.

The school’s attorney replied to FFRF’s Robert Ingersoll Legal Fellow Colin McNamara’s letter, assuring FFRF that they will “continue to monitor all of these and other issues to ensure compliance with appropriate federal and state law and local Board policy.”