FFRF calls for Tenn. schools to rescind religious proclamation

1Billy GrahamThe Freedom From Religion Foundation is urging a Tennessee school board to rescind its proclamation to dub Nov. 7 as “Billy Graham Day.”

The state-church watchdog has sent a warning letter to the Claiborne County School Board in Tazewell, Tenn., after it recently declared Nov. 7 “Billy Graham Day” in the district, proclaiming that each school “would be free to celebrate the life of the famous evangelist, in any way it so chooses.”

Media reported that a county attorney urged the board to revoke the announcement because it is a violation of a 1988 court order prohibiting the district from proselytizing. FFRF notes in its letter that, even absent the court order, the district’s “endorsement of a man who is famous only for evangelizing is inappropriate and unconstitutional.”

Graham was a Christian minister known primarily for his evangelical religious views, soul-winning crusades and his multimillion-dollar empire, the Billy Graham Evangelical Association.

“By instructing district schools to celebrate such an individual, the district implicitly endorses that icon’s religious message, which is inappropriate for a secular school district,” write FFRF Co-Presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker. “It thereby turns Christian students, particularly evangelical or fundamentalist Christian students, into insiders, and non-Christian students into outsiders.”

FFRF points out that had Graham been known mainly for secular achievements, as was the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., it would be a different situation. But Graham’s career was devoted to revivals, Christian conversions, fire-and-brimstone preaching and the insertion of his brand of religion into what is supposed to be a secular government founded on a godless Constitution.

Furthermore, as FFRF highlights in its letter, Graham has a dubious history of divisive viewpoints including anti-LGBTQ sentiments and private expressions of anti-Semitism.

“Your actions endorsing this Christian figure alienate, exclude and insult many local taxpayers, parents and students, including nonbelievers, the LGBTQ community, Jews and other non-Christians, as well as those who revere our First Amendment’s principle of separation between church and state,” conclude Gaylor and Barker.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 33,000 members across the country, including more than 300 members in Tennessee and a chapter in Knoxville. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator

FFRF is a member of the Secular Coalition for America

FFRF privacy statement