FFRF objects to Ga. teacher’s classroom proselytizing

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has lodged a complaint with the Douglas County School System after learning that science teacher James Tillman reportedly promotes his personal beliefs to students and actively tried to convert one atheist student to Christianity.

A parent of a Douglas County High School student informed FFRF that upon learning the student was an atheist, Tillman quizzed him during class about atheism. Tillman allegedly asked why the student was an atheist and whether his parents were atheists, and challenged the student with hypothetical situations like "What if you had cancer and it suddenly went away?" Tillman concluded by telling the student he was going to give the student a book that may change the student's opinion.

Tillman later gave the student two signed copies of a book he had written titled "Are You Sure That There is No God," inscribed with the message "Be Blessed." According to its Amazon product page, the book contains purported "real accounts from real people who have meet [sic] or experienced God and Jesus first-hand," and touts, "If you have any doubt as to whether God is real, or if your faith is weak, all that will change after reading this book."

FFRF sent the school district's attorney a letter of complaint on May 26. "As you are aware, it is inappropriate and unconstitutional for teachers to use students' time at school to promote their personal religious views," wrote FFRF Attorney Madeline Ziegler. "Tillman's imposition of his religious beliefs on a classroom of students is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion over nonreligion, and his overt attempt to convert our complainant's child to Christianity is inexcusable."

"Public schools should strive to be welcoming to families of all faiths and non-faith," said Ziegler. Tillman's actions "turned our complainant's child and other non-Christians into outsiders at their school."

FFRF also called for an investigation into Tillman's role as the head of the school's Christian club. "Given Tillman's exceedingly inappropriate conduct in the incidents described above, we doubt his role with the First Priority Club is nonparticipatory as required by the Equal Access Act," wrote Ziegler.

If Tillman cannot teach without inserting his personal religious beliefs into class or trying to convert students, he should be dismissed, says FFRF, or at the very least disciplined appropriately.

FFRF is a state/church watchdog with more than 22,800 members nationwide, including over 400 in Georgia.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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FFRF is a member of the Secular Coalition for America

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