The Freedom From Religion Foundation is concerned about the presence of a number of religious statues in Chicago public charter schools.
FFRF has learned that Chicago Public Schools leases several buildings from religious organizations for its charter schools and that several of these buildings display religious iconography. The Irving Park campus of the Chicago International Charter School has a large statue of the Virgin Mary at the main entrance. The Wrightwood campus of the same school has a similar figure, as well as other Catholic sculptures, near the main entrance. And the charter school's Prairie and Avalon campuses have large Latin crosses near the school entrances. FFRF suspects that there are similar religious icons inside the schools and at other local public charter schools.
"Courts have continually held that school districts may not display religious messages or iconography in public schools," FFRF Legal Fellow Ryan Jayne writes to Ronald Marmer, the Chicago Board of Education's general counsel. "The schools appear to be private parochial schools or even churches. The appearance that the schools endorse Christianity is overwhelming and undeniable."
It makes no difference that Chicago Public Schools leases these buildings, FFRF contends. It must ensure that the buildings are constitutionally compliant before school starts. It may not contract around its constitutional obligation to remain neutral on matters of religion, and churches may not smuggle religious iconography into public schools by leasing church buildings to a public school district.
FFRF is asking the school district to investigate the matter and to take steps to remove or cover these religious symbols.
The Freedom From Religious Foundation is a watchdog organization dedicated to the separation of state and church with 23,700 members nationally, including more than 700 in Illinois.