A Tennessee public school district is using its social media pages to proselytize to students and followers, prompting intervention from the church/state watchdog Freedom From Religion Foundation.
It is well-settled law that public schools may not advance, prefer or promote religion, FFRF reminds the district. Public school employees are government actors and therefore subject to the strictures of the Establishment Clause’s separation of church and state.
“Advancing, preferring and promoting religion is exactly what a school district does when its employees post religious messages and endorse religious events and activities on official public social media pages,” FFRF Legal Fellow Christopher Line writes in his letter to Director of Schools Marlon King. “These proselytizing messages give the appearance of district endorsement of religion over nonreligion, and Christianity over all other faiths.”
The endorsement of a particular religion on the district’s official social media pages is not only unconstitutional, but it also alienates any community members who do not subscribe to the specific religious messages being shared. In order to avoid future entanglements and respect the rights of conscience of all district community members, FFRF is urging the district personnel to cease posting religious messaging on its official social media pages.
“Religion is inherently alienating and exclusionary,” FFRF President Annie Laurie Gaylor notes. “A school district using its official platform to preach to an impressionable audience of young students automatically creates an in-group and an out-group along the dividing lines of religion.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 31,000 members and several chapters across the country, including over 400 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.