FFRF calls out multiple constitutional violations in Tenn. school

1LawrenceburgSignFFRF is calling for an end to multiple constitutional violations by a Tennessee school district.

A concerned complainant reported that the New Prospect Elementary gym in Lawrenceburg, Tenn., has text painted on the wall that says, “God First. Others Second. Self Third. FCA.” FCA stands for Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

FFRF Legal Fellow Christopher Line sent a letter to the district reminding it of its constitutional obligation to remain neutral towards religion.

“The district violates the Constitution when its schools display religious symbols or messages,” FFRF Patrick O’Reiley Legal Fellow Christopher Line wrote in his letter to Director of Schools Johnny McDaniel. “Courts have continually held that school districts may not display religious messages or iconography in public schools.”

Additionally, staff members at the school reportedly organized and promoted a religious “See You at the Pole” event. Advertisements for the event were posted on New Prospect School’s official Facebook page as well as photos after the fact.

“It is well-settled law that a public school employee may not lead, direct or encourage students to engage in prayer,” Line writes. “Supreme Court has continually struck down formal and teacher or school-led prayer in public schools.”

FFRF is asking that the school remove the sign from the gym and desist from planning, promoting or participating in any future “See You at the Pole” events. The school must also refrain from encouraging students to organize or attend such religious events.

“Teachers are free to pray in any way they would like on their own time.They may not, however, impose that practice on young and impressionable students,” says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. “It is a violation of both the students’ and parents’ rights of conscience.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 32,000 members and several chapters across the country, including hundreds of members and a chapter in Tennessee. 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.

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.

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