A blatantly unconstitutional display of religiosity has been removed from a Florida public school due to the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
A concerned parent reported to the state/church watchdog that a teacher at Bair Middle School was exhibiting multiple religious displays in the classroom. One of these displays taught students how to pray, showing a praying child along with messages like, “Praise God,” “Confess Your Sins” and “Thank God.” Another display was a large cross and the bible verse, “For GOD so LOVED the world that He gave His one and only SON, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have ETERNAL LIFE. John 3:16.” Yet other displays included the Lord’s Prayer, a list of books from the Old and New Testaments, and a list of “God’s Promises For Kids,” including: “God will love you forever! God will never leave you! God will comfort you! God will help you! God is always faithful! God will keep you safe! God keeps his promises!”
Public schools may not advance, prefer or promote religion, FFRF reminded the school district.
“Courts have continually held that school districts may not display religious messages or iconography in public schools,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line wrote to the legal counsel for Broward County Public Schools. “Furthermore, the district has an obligation under the law to make certain that ‘subsidized teachers do not inculcate religion,’” to quote the U.S. Supreme Court.
The school district must make certain that none of its employees is unlawfully and inappropriately indoctrinating students in religious matters by filling classrooms with religious displays, FFRF emphasized. It asked that the school district get rid of these religious endorsements from its property and make certain that the teacher who put these up wouldn’t proselytize to students in other ways. And it advised that all district staff members be given additional training regarding the Establishment Clause to ensure this kind of blatant and egregious violation not occur again.
School officials seem to have paid careful attention to FFRF’s words.
“After reviewing the matters raised in your letter dated Nov. 5, 2021 , SBBC [School Board of Broward County] immediately investigated the claims and took action to remove the religious displays from the classroom and instruct the subject personnel to immediately cease from displaying religious content in the classroom,” the school district’s legal counsel recently wrote back. “In addition to immediately addressing the claims raised in your Nov. 5, 2021, correspondence, SBBC has scheduled a training at its next principal’s meeting to reinforce to its school administrators and their staff that it is inappropriate, unlawful and a violation of SBBC policy to allow religious displays, give religious assignments or promote personal religious beliefs in schools.”
FFRF is always happy to nudge school districts into doing the right thing.
“Nothing delights us more than when schools correct themselves because of our intervention,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “We commend Broward County Public Schools for its alacrity in addressing the matter.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with approximately 35,000 members and several chapters across the country, including roughly 1,800 members and a chapter in Florida. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.