The Minneapolis Public Schools district has taken action to stop violating the constitutional rights of staff members after being contacted by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
The state/church watchdog was informed by a concerned district employee that the district’s Education Department had been holding quarterly mandatory all-staff meetings at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church. Employees had to go through multiple church rooms in order to get to the meeting room in the basement. Additionally, meetings reportedly last between six and eight hours. The complainant reported feeling disturbed by the setting and would not have attended had the meetings not been not mandatory.
FFRF wrote to Attorney Amy Moore, general counsel for the district, requesting that meetings no longer be held at the church, noting that the district was sending a message of favoritism toward religion over nonreligion by meeting in a house of worship. This was needlessly alienating all non-Christian employees, including the growing number of religiously unaffiliated or nonreligious individuals, who now represent 30 percent of Hennepin County adults.
The district reached out to FFRF Anne Nicol Gaylor Legal Fellow Sammi Lawrence, communicating that the “Community Education Department will not be using churches or other places of worship for professional development or any such meetings.”
FFRF is pleased the district has ensured a secular space for future such meetings.
“This change will create an environment that is welcoming to all,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “We appreciate that the Minneapolis Public School district is doing the right thing.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 39,000 members and several chapters across the country, including over 800 members and a chapter in Minnesota. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.