An Indiana school district has pledged to the Freedom From Religion Foundation that it will not permit the distribution of fundamentalist flyers to its school kids.
A member of the community contacted FFRF a few months ago to inform it that staff at Yankeetown Elementary School in Newburgh, Ind., were distributing ultrareligious flyers to third- and fourth-grade female students. The handouts were a description of Pop Girls ("Pearls Of Purity"), a Christian ministry promoting the "wisdom of Christ." The ministry "cultivates girls" with the aim of converting them to Christianity. A perusal of the group's website reveals its homophobic and anti-transgender agenda.
FFRF cautioned the school district about disseminating such material.
"The practice of distributing religious flyers by public schools is objectionable on many different grounds," FFRF Legal Fellow Ryan Jayne wrote to Warrick County Schools Superintendent Brad Schneider. "First, school-sponsored distributions of religious material carry the stamp of official endorsement. Second, even if the school disassociates itself from the religious activity through a disclaimer, which was not included in this instance, the distribution of literature for religious organizations and activities wastes the time and resources of paid school personnel, while depriving students of instruction."
Plus, distribution of this sort forces teachers of diverse views and beliefs to hand out religious promotional materials. And it offends or confuses parents about what is and is not school-sanctioned.
This sort of entanglement between religion and state is inappropriate, FFRF advised the school district. At a minimum, it said, the district should require disclaimers and prohibit flyers that promote discrimination.
The school district has heeded FFRF's advice.
"I did review the flyer in question and understand the concern," Schneider recently responded. "This flyer should not have been approved and we will put steps in place to prevent objectionable flyers to slip through the cracks in the future. You have my word that flyers of this nature will not be distributed home in the future."
FFRF is elated about the assurance.
"It is always delightful to see a school district taking swift action to protect its young students," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "We can only wish that other school districts were so promptly and fully responsive."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national organization dedicated to the separation of state and church, with more than 26,000 nonreligious members nationwide, including nearly 400 in Indiana.