FFRF asks Ark. school to remove bible verses


The Freedom From Religion Foundation says discordant bible verses are creating a “bad note” at an Arkansas high school’s choral area and must come down.

Searcy High School’s choral director has placed several Christian-themed posters on the walls of the high school chorus room. Most contain verses from the bible, including: Jeremiah 29:11 (“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future”); Ephesians 5:19 (“Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord”); Colossians 3:14 (“Love binds us together in perfect harmony”); and Psalms 42:1 (“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God”). Another poster displays lyrics from the gospel song “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” (“Precious Lord take my hand, lead me on, let me stand”).

The Searcy School District violates the U.S. Constitution when it allows its schools to display religious symbols or messages, FFRF informs school officials. Courts have continually held that school districts may not display religious messages or iconography in public schools.

“Public schools may not advance, prefer, or promote religion,” FFRF Robert G. Ingersoll Legal Fellow Colin E. McNamara writes to Searcy School District Superintendent Diane Barrett. “This display violates this basic constitutional prohibition by creating the appearance that the district prefers religion over nonreligion, and Christianity over all other faiths.”

Religion is a divisive force in public schools, FFRF reminds the district. This religious display is particularly inappropriate, given that about 44 percent of those born after 1990 are non-Christian.
The display alienates those nonreligious students, families, teachers, and members of the public whose religious beliefs are inconsistent with the message being promoted by the school.

It is not a violation of an employee’s free speech or free exercise rights to require her to remove religious displays from school property, FFRF emphasizes. District employees have access to a captive student audience solely because of their positions as teachers or administrators, as courts have observed.

“A music room should be a place of harmony, not religious division,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Student chorus members of minority faiths and no religion must feel equally welcomed.”

FFRF is requesting the Searcy School District to remove the religious posters immediately from the choral room and to remind its employees of their constitutional obligation to remain neutral toward religion while representing the District.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with over 29,000 members across the country, including many members in Arkansas. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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