FFRF makes Ohio bible study groups adhere to law

FaithMemorialScreenDue to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, bible study groups in Ohio are now abiding by the law.

Faith Memorial Church in Lancaster, Ohio, southeast of Columbus, participated in bible study groups in a number of local public schools. The church listed such groups in eight public schools in its vicinity, including four high schools. Most of the clubs met during the schools' lunch breaks and were run by adults, according to the church's webpage (since taken down). 

The courts have clearly decided over the years that public schools cannot advance, prefer or promote religion. Even though in some circumstances there can be student-led religious groups under the Equal Access Act, direction by outside adults is not permitted.

"We request that you investigate these concerns and, if confirmed, halt the FMC's involvement with student religious clubs," FFRF's Diane Uhl Legal Fellow Ryan Jayne wrote in Feb. 5 letters sent to officials in charge of the Ohio schools where the bible study groups had convened. "Any clubs that were led by FMC representatives should be dissolved because they are not bona fide student-initiated clubs. Students would be free to re-establish the clubs, on their own initiative, in the future."

FFRF recently received a response from legal counsel for the four districts where the public schools are located. In its reply, the firm told FFRF that in the future any bible study clubs would conform to the law. "Principals are making sure that students leading bible study clubs are conducting those groups within the parameters of the Equal Access Act," the Mar. 2 letter stated

FFRF is encouraged by the assurance.

"Schools need to make sure that voluntary student-led groups are indeed voluntary," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "Outsiders can't come into public schools and try to manipulate young minds."

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a church/state watchdog organization with 23,000 members nationally, including more than 500 individuals in Ohio.

 

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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