A Michigan school district has gotten rid of unconstitutional religious iconography from its school in keeping with the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s guidance.
A concerned Pewamo-Westphalia Community Schools student reported to FFRF multiple instances of religious promotion by district staff members at the middle and high school. The displays ranged from a paperweight that displayed “WWJD” or “What would Jesus do” to a cross on paper displayed with a bible quote from John 15:13. Teachers at the school sometimes also reportedly discussed their religious beliefs with students.
It is a violation of the Constitution for any school representative to promote a religious message to students, either through religious displays or indirect communications with students, FFRF stressed to the school district.
“It is a fundamental principle of Establishment Clause jurisprudence that public schools may not advance, prefer or promote religion,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line wrote to Superintendent Jeff Wright. “By displaying religious messages and discussing religion with students, district staff members have violated the principle that ‘the preservation and transmission of religious beliefs and worship is a responsibility and a choice committed to the private sphere,’” to quote the U.S. Supreme Court.
FFRF’s missive led to official religion disappearing from Pewamo-Westphalia Community Schools — in keeping with constitutional precepts.
The superintendent met with staff and instructed them to remove “non-curricular religious displays from the classrooms and to discontinue any practices of promoting personal religious views during the school day,” an attorney for the school district informed FFRF. The superintendent also planned to do a walkthrough to make sure everything has been removed, FFRF was told.
“We applaud the district for taking action to remedy these violations,” comments FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Public school teachers should not be preaching to their students.”
FFRF is a national nonprofit organization with over 36,000 members across the country, including more than 800 members in Michigan. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.