FFRF calls out Tulare, Calif., teacher for insulting atheist student 

A photo of the teacher's mini-fridge in the classroom. The fridge has many magnets on it, including one that says Conservative, one that says unborn lives matter, lets go brandon, and several religious magnets.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is insisting that a California school district put an end to a high school teacher’s bullying of his nonbelieving students.

A concerned parent informed the state/church watchdog that a teacher at Mission Oak High School in Tulare Joint Union High School District has been using his position to promote his personal religious views to students. The complainant reports that the teacher has several inappropriate religious and political displays in his classroom and that he has made religious remarks in class, including statements denigrating nonreligious students. The teacher has several displays on a fridge in his classroom, one of which says, “pray without ceasing.” Others have slogans such as “Unborn Lives Matter” and “Let’s Go Brandon,” which is an euphemism for “F… Joe Biden.” These divisive religious and political messages make the child of FFRF’s complainant feel uncomfortable in the teacher’s classroom.

The complainant also reported that on May 2, the teacher brought up religion when the answer to a question was 66.66. He reportedly instigated a discussion with students because “666” is the “devil’s number.” This discussion led to a student revealing that they’re an atheist. Another student asked what an atheist is, and the teacher replied that an atheist is “a fool,” proceeding to directly call out the student for not believing in God. Some of the students in the class reportedly started making crosses in the air or praying.

The Tulare Joint Union High School District violates the Constitution when it allows its teachers to display religious messages in their classrooms or to abuse their positions to promote their personal religious beliefs, FFRF emphasizes.

“It is well settled that public schools may not show favoritism towards or coerce belief or participation in religion,” FFRF attorney Chris Line writes to Superintendent Lucy Van Scyoc. “Further, courts have continually held that public school districts may not display religious messages or iconography in public schools.”

Plus, the district has an obligation under the law to make certain that its teachers are not violating the rights of its students by singling out students for their beliefs, proselytizing or using their position to promote their personal religious beliefs, as the courts have ruled. Parents have the constitutional right to determine their children’s religious or nonreligious upbringing. Here, the teacher has violated the trust that FFRF’s complainant and all other parents place in the district’s teachers to follow the Constitution and refrain from imposing their own religious beliefs on the children they teach. Additionally, the teacher’s actions needlessly alienate those students who’re  a part of the 49 percent of Generation Z that is religiously unaffiliated, such as the students the teacher is insulting.

The Tulare Joint Union High School District should take immediate action to ensure that the teacher is no longer discussing religion with students, making denigrating statements about atheists, or in any way promoting religion to students, FFRF is demanding. Additionally, any religious iconography or inappropriate messages should be removed from the teacher’s classroom.

“A teacher can’t be allowed to belittle his students in this way,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “His overbearing conduct needs to be stopped at once.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 40,000 members and several chapters across the country, including more than 5,200 members and two local chapters in California. Our 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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