The Freedom From Religion Foundation is requesting that a Texas school district expunge religion from its activities.
A couple of unnerved community members recently contacted FFRF to report two constitutional violations that have taken place within the Corpus Christi Independent School District. It was reported that after a recent Miller High School football game in Corpus Christi, Texas, players and coaches had congregated in the middle of the field to recite the “Lord’s Prayer.”
FFRF was also informed that teachers at Woodlawn Elementary took students on a field trip to a pumpkin patch at Asbury United Methodist Church. After exploring the patch, the students were gathered for a proselytizing storytime session led by a church volunteer who read books that included pictures of pumpkins decorated with the Latin cross and a “Jesus fish.” Students were told that the cross represented Jesus, that Jesus died on the cross for everyone’s sins, that Jesus is “our Messiah” and other Christian myths.
In a letter sent to the school district, FFRF warns that the two instances of illegal religious promotion on behalf of the public school must end. FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover informs the district superintendent that federal courts have held that public school coaches’ participation in their team’s prayer circles are unconstitutional. Grover also addresses the religious field trip at Woodlawn Elementary.
“It is an egregious abuse of government power to proselytize a captive audience of very young, impressionable school children,” writes Grover.
And, FFRF notes, the fact that participation in the field trip was voluntary with parental-signed permission forms does not cure the constitutional violation. FFRF reminds the school district that Corpus Christi is home to a diverse array of parents and students who are not Christian and not religious.
“The school district must honor its obligation to welcome and protect the rights of conscience of all of its students — not just those with religion,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.
FFRF is asking that the district ensure that its representatives restrain themselves from organizing, leading or participating in prayer with students. FFRF is also requesting that district schools not incorporate religious activities into future field trips and that no future field trips be scheduled in a place of worship.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 29,000 members across the country, including in Texas. Its purpose is to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church.