The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national state/church watchdog, has contacted Skiatook Public Schools, Okla., to protest several state/church violations reported by a district family.
Among the allegations: District schools have taken students on field trips to a creationist park, Safari Zoological Park in Caney, Kan. The park's website describes its mission as "to show the awesomeness of our God in the individual wonder and uniqueness of all His creation." It continues, "we are more than an evolved matter over millions of years, but made fearfully and wonderfully in His image, with an eternal soul." FFRF's complainant said the park representative "spoke of God's miracles, about how perfect God is, about the Great Flood," and told students "that God made all the animals."
"Teaching creationism to students is neither educational nor legal," wrote FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel in a letter to the school district. "Courts have routinely found that creationism is religion, not science, despite many new and imaginative labels."
In addition, FFRF was informed that Marrs Elementary's teachers have led students in prayer, specifically at a Veterans Day assembly last year. "Public school teachers and staff may not lead, direct, ask, or even encourage students to pray," Seidel informed the school, asking the district to ensure the prayer did not reoccur at this year's upcoming assembly or any other school events.
Teachers at Marrs Elementary are also fond of emphasizing references to God in the Pledge of Allegiance and the national motto, according to the complainant family. The school has posted a framed "In God We Trust" display on every classroom wall, and one teacher sent students home with a copy of the Pledge of Allegiance to memorize, boldfacing the words "under God," even though students are free to amend the wording or not engage in the pledge at all, Seidel wrote, citing court cases.
"These violations are particularly disturbing given the young age of students involved — as young as 5," noted Seidel. He concluded by asking the district to instruct teachers on the illegality of requiring students to stand for or recite the pledge, emphasizing the religious aspects of the pledge, promoting creationism and leading students in prayer.
"Our country is based on a godless Constitution, our pledge was godfree until it was tampered with in 1954, and our founders chose 'E Pluribus Unum' [From many (come) one] as our original motto. 'In God We Trust' isn't even accurate — to be accurate it would have to say 'In God Some of Us Trust,' and wouldn't that be a silly motto?" asked Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president.
FFRF, based in Madison, Wis., has 21,500 members across the country, including members in Oklahoma.