The Freedom From Religion Foundation is asking for the removal of two religious flags from public schools in New Jersey.
A local resident informed FFRF that the East Hanover Township School District is flying flags that state "One Nation Under God" on flagpoles at the Frank J. Smith Elementary School and the East Hanover Middle School. The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization, reportedly donated the flags.
"The district violates the Constitution when it allows its schools to display religious symbols or messages," FFRF Legal Fellow Madeline Ziegler writes to Superintendent Scott Rubin. "Courts have continually held that schools may not display religious messages or iconography in public schools. Please note that it is legally immaterial whether the display was funded by the district or by private donors."
Besides, such a message is deeply alienating for the nonreligious population of East Hanover. Roughly one-fourth of Americans and one-third of Millennials identify as nonreligious. The flag displays turn into outsiders these students, families, teachers and members of the public.
"This is an egregious misuse of public school authority and property," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "To be at these schools as a nonreligious person can't be a pleasant experience."
FFRF is urging the East Hanover School District to immediately remove the flags in keeping with the district's constitutional obligation to remain neutral toward religion. The district's legal counsel has responded that the matter is being reviewed.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nationwide nonprofit organization dedicated to the constitutional separation of state and church, with more than 27,000 nonreligious members across the country, including 500-plus in New Jersey.