The Freedom From Religion Foundation has ensured that all lessons being taught at an Indiana elementary school will be free of religious ideology.
Earlier this spring, FFRF sent a letter to the School City of Mishawaka district after a concerned parent contacted the state-church watchdog to report that a first-grade teacher at Liberty Elementary School assigned an art project to students focused on the biblical nativity story. The project included the usual cast of characters from Matthew Ch. 1–2: baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, an angel and three wise men. The teacher reportedly taught her class that Christmas was Jesus’ birthday and read a book about it to the class.
“As you are certainly aware, public schools have a constitutional obligation to remain neutral toward religion,” wrote FFRF Staff Attorney Ryan Jayne to Superintendent A. Dean Speicher. “When district staff assign children a religious art project, read students the nativity story, and tell students that Christmas is ‘Jesus’ birthday,’ the district has unconstitutionally endorsed a religious message, specifically a Christian message.”
Schools may have secular Christmas celebrations, but the promotion of the holiday’s religious aspects at Liberty Elementary marginalized non-Christian parents and students. Such a practice alienates those non-Christian students, teachers and parents whose religious beliefs are inconsistent with the message being promoted by the school. And today nearly a quarter of Americans are not religious.
The district recently assured FFRF that the teacher had been reminded of her obligations to remain neutral in matters regarding religion in her role as a public school teacher and that the promotion of Christianity would not recur. FFRF applauds the district’s swift action to ensure constitutional compliance in the future.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 33,000 members across the country, including over 400 members in Indiana. 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.