FFRF: Miss. district must yank religious signs

George County School

The George County School District in Mississippi needs to immediately remove a number of unconstitutional religious displays, contends the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

A concerned district taxpayer recently informed the state/church watchdog that signs exhibiting a Christian cross have appeared on several district properties. These signs feature a large cross next to the words “passion, purpose, pride” with “#gcstrong” and “George County Rebels” underneath. They can reportedly be currently seen at Agricola Elementary, Benndale Elementary, LC Hatcher Elementary, Rocky Creek Elementary, George County Middle School and the district’s Transportation Maintenance & Child Nutrition building. To add to FFRF’s concerns, the “passion, purpose, pride” message is apparently being adopted by the school district as a theme for the upcoming school year.

The district must cease its endorsement of Christianity through religious displays on school property, says FFRF.

“It is well settled that public schools may not advance, prefer or promote religion,” FFRF Associate Counsel Sam Grover writes to Superintendent Pam Touchard. “Such displays violate this well-established constitutional principle.”

These signs communicate to a reasonable observer that the district endorses Christianity over nonreligion and all minority religions, FFRF points out, since the Christian cross is the pre-eminent symbol of Christianity.

Religion is a divisive force in public schools, FFRF advises the George County School District. The religious displays alienate non-Christian and nonreligious students, parents, teachers and members of the public. Today, in fact, fully 47 percent of young Americans are non-Christian, with 21 percent of those born after 1999 — i.e., all of the district’s current students — identifying as either atheist or agnostic.

But regardless of the religious composition in any school or school district, public schools may not impose religion on a captive audience of schoolchildren, FFRF notes.

FFRF is asking that George County School District remove all signs promoting Christianity from its property and to stop violating the Establishment Clause out of respect for the constitutional rights of its minority religious and nonreligious students.

“The wanton displaying of one religion all over the district shows a callous disregard for students who are not Christian,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Public schools must be welcoming to all students, and must stay out of religious proselytizing.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with the purposes to protect the constitutional separation between church and state and to educate the public on matters related to nontheism. It currently has more than 31,000 members across the country, including many members in Mississippi.

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

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