The Freedom From Religion Foundation is challenging an egregiously unconstitutional Christian program being offered at a middle school in the Charleston County School District.
Northwoods Middle School is about to start a program for students that contains Christian lessons and materials. The program is called ARISE and was created by Angela Henderson, a Christian “prophetic journey coach” whose Facebook page describes her Christian motivations:
Align your plan with God’s plan and overcome any challenge life can throw at you. I help people connect the dots of their life story, see how God has always been at work and discover what He is speaking now and for their future.
The first “session” of the ARISE program includes Christian materials and messages. Students are asked to identify the meaning of the date of their birth. Some of the options are: “Singleness of mind; like the mind of Christ, Divine Unity of the Father, Son, and Spirit, Grace, Perfection of God, Distress, given the strength of God during times of spiritual growth…” Students are also asked to identify the month of their birth with similar Christian messages.
The Charleston County School District cannot endorse religion by hosting programs or assigning lessons to students that teach or promote Christianity, FFRF emphasizes.
“It is well settled that public schools may not advance or promote religion,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line writes to Interim Superintendent Donald Kennedy. “Assigning students lessons that include Christian lessons and messages promotes Christianity.”
Public schools have a duty to ensure that instructional materials do not promote a particular religious viewpoint, FFRF stresses. Just as federal courts have routinely ruled that creationist instruction in schools is unconstitutional, religious endorsement presented via school lessons is likewise unconstitutional. The use of this program is completely inappropriate, the state/church watchdog concludes, and asks that it be immediately investigated and ended. FFRF has also included an open records request related to the district’s communications regarding the ARISE program.
“We’re in favor of bona fide support programs for middle schoolers, but not in forms that are overtly proselytizing and exclusionary,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 36,000 members across the country, including hundreds of members in South Carolina. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.