Missouri district remedies state/church violations after FFRF complaint

A Missouri public school has taken action to address widespread constitutional violations following intervention from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

FFRF sent a letter of complaint in September, after a concerned Oak Grove R-VI School District parent reported to the national state/church watchdog dozens of distinct instances of unconstitutional religious promotion occurring within the district. The violations include scheduled Christian prayers at mandatory staff meetings, religious displays on district property and the teaching of creationism in its public school curriculum. Based on these reports, FFRF identified six action items for the district.

In its Sept. 5 letter, FFRF addressed each of the violations and urged the district to take immediate corrective action. Its recommendations included the cessation of scheduled prayers and the cancellation of invitations to speakers to pray at school events. It also asked the district to ensure that employees stop promoting their personal religious beliefs to students.

“The Oak Grove R-VI School District has neglected its obligations to protect the rights of conscience of its students and faculty members under the Establishment Clause,” FFRF Associate Counsel Sam Grover wrote to Superintendent Bryan Thomsen. “Through this letter, we have invited the school district to demonstrate its respect for the religious freedom of all its students by voluntarily changing its practices.”

The school district’s attorney has sent a letter of response addressing each of FFRF’s six areas of concern. The letter assures that the extensive church/state violations FFRF identified in the district will cease. Among other remedies, the inclusion of religious comments in communication from district leadership will no longer continue and religious iconography will be removed from classrooms.

“We commend the district for its thorough response to these widespread religious entanglements,” comments FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “These are positive steps in ensuring that the rights of conscience of all students and community members are protected.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 30,000 members across the country, including several hundred members in Missouri. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional 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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FFRF is a member of the Secular Coalition for America

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