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Don’t impose your religion, FFRF chastises Ala. comm. college head

Snead State Comm College logo

Stop foisting your religion upon your public employees, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is admonishing the president of Snead State Community College.

A concerned employee of the college has informed the state/church watchdog that President Joe Whitmore has been imposing his personal religious beliefs on Snead State employees and treating Snead State as a Christian college — rather than the secular public college it is. Our complainant has been required to partake in Christian prayer before meals and at staff events. Each year, Whitmore reportedly presents a “guiding bible verse” for the staff. Being forced to participate in Christian prayers has left the FFRF complainant feeling uncomfortable and excluded.

Prayer at staff meetings is unnecessary, divisive and unconstitutional, FFRF stresses.

“As a state-run institution, Snead State Community College is bound by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which ‘mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion,’” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line writes to WhitmoreStaff Attorney Chris Line writes to Whitmore. “Federal courts have routinely enforced the strictures of the Establishment Clause in the context of public colleges and universities. Instituting a ‘guiding bible verse,’ leading prayers or otherwise pushing your personal religious beliefs onto subordinates in your official capacity as president is coercive and clearly demonstrates a preference for religion over nonreligion, and Christianity over all other faiths.”

Staff members are free to pray privately or to worship on their own time in their own way, FFRF reminds Whitmore. Holding prayer at staff events needlessly alienates those who are among the nearly 30 percent of adult Americans who are religiously unaffiliated, as well as the additional 6 percent of Americans adhering to non-Christian faiths. 

To avoid further Establishment Clause concerns and to respect the rights of conscience of its employees, FFRF is asking that the college immediately cease holding prayer at staff events or meals, and that Whitmore halt his practice of including religious messages in official communications to staff members.

“A clear abuse of authority seems to be happening here — and that, too, in such a sensitive, private sphere as religion,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “This has to end immediately.”

The full FFRF letter can be read here.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 40,000 members, including hundreds of members in Alabama. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.


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