A Georgia school district scrapped plans for a proposed bible class partnership with a local Christian group after the Freedom From Religion Foundation complained.
In September, FFRF sent a letter to Oconee County Schools that detailed multiple violations in its school system of the constitutional separation of state and church. A particularly disturbing instance concerned a student being tormented for not joining in the Lord's Prayer led by the North Oconee High School head basketball coach, David Gascho. Other students taunted him on a school bus with taunts of "Kill the Jew" and "Massacre the Jews," according to the student's family. Among the violations the school district engaged in was its proposed partnership with the Oconee County Christian Learning Center for religious release time classes and possibly a bible class for credit. The bible class was meant to cover "divisive topics like abortion, evolution and gay marriage," the local newspaper reported. On all these issues, the Learning Center has a theocratic stance, with an absolutist approach against abortion, a dismissal of evolution in preference of creationism, and a condemnation of homosexuality as "sin."
FFRF warned the school district that the partnership was unconstitutional and illegal.
"The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits public school sponsorship or involvement in devotional school instruction," FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel wrote to Oconee County Schools Superintendent Jason Branch. "Just as Oconee County Schools cannot teach the bible as truth or creationism as science, it cannot give credit to students who receive those lessons outside schools."
FFRF has received official word that the school district has abandoned plans for the biblical partnership, and is happy that its complaint helped bring this about.
"The various incidents taking place in the Oconee school district are alarming," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "We're glad that we've been able to push back, on the partnership, as well as the praying, which also seems to have paused after our complaint."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nationwide nonprofit organization dedicated to the separation of state and church, with more than 23,000 nonreligious members across the country, including 400-plus in Georgia and an Atlanta-area chapter.