The Freedom From Religion Foundation is objecting to the top South Carolina education official's use of the recent Florida school shooting to proselytize to public school students.
State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman recently released a “February Message on School Safety,” in which she offered an evangelizing message suggesting that students turn to Christianity to protect them from devastating school shootings.
FFRF emphasizes that while it shares the nation’s heartache over the Parkland shooting and mourns the loss of innocent lives, it was dismayed to hear Spearman’s preaching message:
“We have also seen the life-changing impact that mentorship programs can bring into troubled students’ lives, and [we] continue to encourage members of our faith community to partner with schools. By sharing Christ’s love, you could be a positive influence that prevents a tragedy like this from occurring.”
In a letter sent to Spearman, FFRF writes that she is in fact calling only on the specific faith community of Christian churches and ministries. Apparently, other religious groups such as Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus are not in the business of sharing “Christ’s love.” Regardless, FFRF notes that expanding the call for faith communities to get involved in the public schools to other religions would enhance conflict and exacerbate the culture of violence.
“Invoking religion, especially in the public schools, is inherently divisive,” write FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Religion itself is divisive.”
FFRF quotes an early Wisconsin Supreme Court justice in its letter, who eloquently explained, “There is no such source and cause of strife, quarrel, fights, malignant opposition, persecution, and war, and all evil in the state, as religion.”
And the remarks certainly alienate many South Carolina students. A recent survey found that 21 percent of Americans born after 1999 are openly atheist or agnostic, while an additional 14 percent have no religious affiliation.
Spearman’s video appears to suggest that mass shootings would not occur if more people were Christian. This is both false and counterproductive as it distracts from real solutions to the problem of gun violence. Furthermore, the video called on churches to use the public schools to convert other people’s children to Christianity — a violation of the Constitution. Public schools may not advance or promote religion.
FFRF is insisting that Spearman avoid violation to students' rights of conscience by editing the video message or by clarifying the remarks to all South Carolina public school students and staff.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with over 32,000 members across the country, including hundreds in South Carolina. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between church and state, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.