A Connecticut public charter school employee's open display of religiosity has been nixed after the Freedom From Religion Foundation alerted her school.
An academic assistant at Jumoke Academy Charter School (in Hartford, Conn.) was displaying a bible verse on her profile outside of one of the school's classrooms. The verse read: "I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13)
FFRF informed the school's board of directors that such a display was unconstitutional.
"Public schools may not advance, prefer or promote religion," FFRF Managing Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert wrote back in June to James Michel, chair of the Jumoke Academy Charter School Board of Directors. "Courts have continually held that school districts may not display religious messages or iconography in public schools."
Plus, FFRF pointed out, the display was quite inappropriate, given that nearly 30 percent of Americans and 44 percent of Millennials are non-Christian, either practicing a minority religion or no religion.
"The display alienates those nonreligious students, families, teachers, and members of the public whose religious beliefs are inconsistent with the messages being promoted by the school," Markert wrote.
FFRF's complaint letter finally elicited a response recently.
"After reviewing the letter, the issue of concern was investigated and the employee of concern was met with," Troy Monroe, executive director of Jumoke Academy, replied. "As a result of our investigation and conversation with the employee, the posting was removed and the employee was reminded that Jumoke Academy is a public school and must be in compliance with the regulations concerning separation of church and state. In addition, the school-based leadership team was informed of these expectations and our district's legal counsel conducted a workshop for the entire school staff."
FFRF is gratified that its letter had an impact.
"It's flattering that Jumoke Academy paid attention to our complaint," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "Our mission to remind public institutions of the First Amendment is made worthwhile when they actually listen to us."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nontheist organization dedicated to the separation of state and church, with more than 24,000 members all over the country, including 200-plus in Connecticut.