The Freedom From Religion Foundation succeeded in protecting children from religious indoctrination in New Augusta, Miss., after their teacher was forcing them to pray in school.
A concerned district parent reported that their child’s third grade teacher at South Perry Elementary in the Perry County School District played religious music in the classroom every morning, and was coercing students to participate in prayer before meals.
FFRF urged the school district to take immediate action to protect the rights of conscience of a captive audience of vulnerable students.
“Students have the First Amendment right to be free from religious indoctrination in their public schools,” FFRF Anne Nicol Gaylor Legal Fellow Sammi Lawrence wrote to Superintendent Titus M. Hines.
Public schools have a constitutional obligation to remain neutral toward religion and to protect the rights of conscience of young and impressionable students, FFRF emphasized. The district must ensure that its teachers are not using their positions to promote their personal religious beliefs. The district’s teacher violated the trust that the complainant and all other parents place in the district’s teachers to follow the Constitution and refrain from imposing their own religious beliefs on other people’s children.
The district took action to ensure that the constitutional rights of its students would be protected in the future.
“In response, I have notified the building administrator of this concern, and she has addressed this with the teacher and her entire staff,” Hines wrote back. “In addition, all building administrators at all other schools in the district have been instructed to be mindful of such acts and how it is inappropriate for the school setting.”
FFRF is satisfied with the district’s action.
“Forcing children to pray is deeply disturbing,” FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor says. “Our public schools exist to educate, not indoctrinate in religion.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 40,000 members across the country, including members in Mississippi. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.