The Freedom From Religion Foundation has contacted the Putnam County Schools in Winfield, W.Va., to report an egregious case of religious indoctrination of first graders at the local elementary school.
A concerned Putnam County Schools parent reports that a first grade teacher at the school assigned students a “Jesus is Born! Informational booklet” coloring assignment. The booklet recounts religious stories from the bible, such as from Luke 2:1-20 and Matthew 2. For example, one page instructs children that “the angel Gabriel was sent by God to the Virgin Mary. He told her that she would have a baby, who would save the world. This baby’s name was going to be Jesus. He would be called Son of God.”
FFRF wrote Superintendent John G. Hudson advising the district to take immediate action to ensure that teachers are no longer giving religious assignments to students, or in any way promoting or endorsing religion. “If the District turns a blind eye to the overt proselytization occurring in Winfield Elementary School,” writes FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line, “it becomes complicit in an egregious constitutional violation and breach of trust.”
Citing decades of firm case law against religious indoctrination, rituals or instruction in the public schools, FFRF notes that the district has an obligation not to inculcate religion upon a captive audience of young and impressionable children. Courts have upheld the termination of teachers who violate the principle of separation between church and state, the state/church watchdog advises.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is currently suing the school district in Mercer County, W.Va., over 75 years of inappropriate religious instruction in elementary schools there.
“It’s particularly dismaying for a public school teacher to proselytize six and seven year olds,” adds Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. “This is a Sunday school coloring book that has no place in our public schools. Public schools exist to educate, not to indoctrinate children of diverse religious and nonreligious backgrounds.”
FFRF, founded in 1978, has 35,000 members nationwide, including members in West Virginia. FFRF works to defend the constitutional principle of separation between state and church and to educate the public about nontheism.