Expressing due appreciation for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Colorado school district has ended a church’s unencumbered access to a local school.
A concerned Eagle County Schools community member had informed FFRF that Redeemer Eagle Valley, a Christian church that rents facilities from Brush Creek Elementary School, was advertising and distributing bibles to Brush Creek Elementary School students. The church had a display up during school-sponsored summer school that included a Latin cross and which promoted bibles to students along with a sign reading “FREE BIBLES !!!”
It is well settled that public schools may not advance, prefer or promote religion, FFRF reminded the school district.
“Brush Creek Elementary School may not allow religious displays on school grounds,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line wrote to Eagle County Schools Superintendent Philip Qualman. “Courts have continually held that school districts may not display religious messages or iconography in public schools.” Nor may bibles be distributed to public school students.
When a school displays an advertisement for a church on its property, it has unconstitutionally entangled itself with a religious message — here a Christian message, FFRF added. This is particularly exclusionary to the 35 percent of Americans who are non-Christian.
To avoid continuing to violate the Establishment Clause, Brush Creek Elementary School must immediately remove the Redeemer Eagle Valley’s display and ensure that it is no longer distributing bibles to students or putting up displays during the school day, FFRF urged.
The school district responded to FFRF in a respectful manner.
“I’m grateful to know that organizations like FFRF exist, and can advocate on behalf of those who feel the separation of church and state is at risk,” the superintendent emailed back, after detailing the steps that Brush Creek Elementary has taken to make certain that the constitutional violations won’t recur.
“School districts don’t reply this graciously very often,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “It’s gratifying that the school district has responded with such alacrity to uphold constitutional principles protecting student rights of conscience.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 35,000 members and several chapters across the country, including over 1,000 members and two chapters in Colorado. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.