FFRF urges Kalkaska preschool to ignore legal threats from religious right group

Kalkaska Memorial Health Center Child

Photo of the Kalkaska Memorial Health Center 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is applauding a Michigan public preschool’s commitment to the U.S. Constitution and is urging it to ignore a theocratic group’s misguided understanding of our country’s founding document. 

Jill Trudeau, the manager of the Kalkaska Memorial Health Center Child Development Center and Preschool, recently received a letter from First Liberty Institute threatening it with a lawsuit. The preschool had stopped two women from the Kalkaska Senior Living Center from proselytizing to its preschool students during a special school event. Joan Wilson and Wilma Wells were reportedly given the opportunity to read Christmas stories to the students, but when they chose to go off script to preach about the birth of Jesus, one of the teachers appropriately cut the stories short. Fox News has also entered the fray, falsely alleging Christian persecution in the episode. 

FFRF commends the preschool on how it handled this situation and thanks its staff for protecting the religious rights of all of its students. Not only was the teacher’s decision legally sound, it was the best way for the preschool to ensure that none of its impressionable students was subjected to religious proselytizing as part of this government-sponsored event, FFRF emphasizes.

What First Liberty, a religious right outfit, fails to understand is that no constitutional right guarantees anyone a captive audience of preschoolers, delivered to them by government employees. First Liberty has absolutely no legal recourse here. To the extent it says otherwise, it’s wrong on the law, FFRF stresses.

“First Liberty’s legal analysis is limited to one very general quote from Pinette, a case about the KKK placing a [temporary] cross in the statehouse plaza in Ohio,” FFRF Legal Fellow Chris Line writes to Trudeau. “The reality is that the law is clear: ‘The government may acknowledge Christmas as a cultural phenomenon, but under the First Amendment it may not observe it as a Christian holy day by suggesting people praise God for the birth of Jesus,’” to quote the U.S. Supreme Court.

The preschool has an absolute right and duty to dictate what lessons are taught to its students, and government-sponsored education cannot include religious promotion, FFRF avers. Instead of threatening preschools with lawsuits and making outrageous legal claims, First Liberty should learn from its recently failed lawsuit in Cambridge Christian School v. Florida High School Athletic Association, where it made a similarly unsuccessful legal argument that Christians had a legal right to use the government as a sounding board for proselytizing students.

“First Liberty has an earned reputation of bullying and intimidation,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The brave Kalkaska staff should ignore the group’s bluster and continue looking after the well-being of its young students.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 31,000 members across the country, including over 700 in Michigan. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional separation of 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.

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