The Freedom From Religion Foundation has convinced a Texas school district to take a harder stance against showing harmful Christian propaganda and anti-evolution movies to students.
In Central Heights High School in Nacogdoches, Texas, two teachers showed their students extremely questionable films. In a ninth grade health class, an instructor screened "God's Not Dead," a movie blatantly Christian and proselytizing in nature. And in a ninth grade science class, another teacher, remarking to his students that he didn't believe in evolution, played "Expelled: Intelligence Not Allowed," an intelligent design propaganda work that the New York Times described as "a conspiracy-theory rant masquerading as investigative inquiry."
FFRF contacted the Central Heights Independent School District in May to alert school officials that the teachers were out of line.
"Intelligent design is a religious belief, not a legitimate scientific theory," Staff Attorney Sam Grover wrote to Central Heights Independent School District Superintendent Bryan Lee. "The district has a duty to ensure that 'subsidized teachers do not inculcate religion' or use their positions of authority to promote a particular religious viewpoint."
The School District initially replied that the teachers were within their rights to show these movies, especially since they had given their students the right to opt out.
In its rebuttal letter last month, FFRF stressed that neither of the movies could be justified on any educational grounds and that allowing the students to opt out did not mitigate the situation. It urged Lee to enforce the "hard stance against any 'proselytizing' by teachers in the classroom."
FFRF's perseverance paid off. Just this week, it received a letter from the Central Heights Independent School District's law firm stating that district staff members will be trained on First Amendment issues to educate them better on the separation of state and church.
FFRF appreciates the assurance.
"We are glad that the district is going to enforce its policies and stop miseducating its captive audience," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "However, the onus shouldn't be on us to remind school districts about their constitutional obligations."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is dedicated to the separation of state and church, with 24,000 nonreligious members all over the country, including almost 1,000 in Texas.