FFRF blocks preaching at mandatory employee events

A Texas public school district will stop preachers sermonizing during compulsory employee events, following a complaint by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

The Hurst-Euless-Bedford Independent School District held a mandatory district-wide convocation at First Baptist Church of Euless on Aug. 14. During the event, Scott Sheppard, executive director of 6 Stones Ministries, led the assembled employees in a prayer. Sheppard reportedly admitted that he wasn’t supposed to pray in his speech, but said that because “y’all are in my house,” he was going to pray anyway. And when Sheppard spoke during the event, he quoted from the bible and “proclaimed Jesus as King of Kings.”

Prayers at required teacher meetings and in-service training constitute illegal government endorsement of religion, FFRF contends. Allowing employees to be proselytized during mandatory events is divisive and unprofessional, as well as unconstitutional. Such practices alienate the nearly 30 percent of Americans who are either non-Christian, follow a minority religion or practice no religion at all (24 percent).

“As a general matter, the Supreme Court has made clear that the First Amendment ‘mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion,’ ” FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover wrote in a letter last September to the school district’s legal counsel. “By letting Mr. Sheppard proselytize to its employees, the district failed to meet its obligation under the Constitution.” 

The district’s attorney, Deron Robinson, replied last month to assure FFRF that “the district administration has taken appropriate measures to make certain future speakers are reminded of the district’s policy and practice to not promote a specific religion.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation appreciates the assurance.

“Having preachers sermonize to employees during compulsory employee gatherings is a violation of their First Amendment rights,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “School districts need to have better sense than to host events of this nature.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national state/church watchdog organization with 23,000 members nationwide, including almost 1,000 in Texas.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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