FFRF celebrates recent multiple wins

First Amend

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has recently won a slew of victories for our secular Constitution.

Last week saw no less than six victories for the state/church watchdog, following complaint letters to officials asking for the wall of separation between church and state to be respected. These form an eclectic array in places all over the United States.

FFRF persuaded a Nebraska police department to stop promoting Christianity on its official page.

“The Supreme Court recently described the power of social media sites as ‘the principal sources for knowing current events, checking ads for employment, speaking and listening in the modern public square, and otherwise exploring the vast realms of human thought and knowledge,’” Staff Attorney Chris Line wrote to the Ashland Police Department.
“Government entities must be particularly diligent not to entangle religious messages with official government pronouncements made in this ‘modern public square.’”

The Ashland Police Department was made to realize the error of its ways. “We will conduct an audit of our Facebook page and remove the posts you have brought to our attention,” Ashland Chief of Police Joseph E. Baudler replied.

In Oregon, FFRF prevailed in persuading a public school to take down church signs that were displayed there for more than half a year.

“Public schools have a constitutional obligation to not promote religion,” FFRF Legal Fellow Dante Harootunian wrote to Salem-Keizer Public Schools 2450 Superintendent of Schools Christy Perry. “When a school displays a church advertisement on its property, it has unconstitutionally entangled itself with a religious message, here a Christian message.”

FFRF’s notification alerted the school to its oversight.

“The district looked into the matter and determined that the sign had been left by the church inadvertently,” the school’s legal counsel wrote back. “The church was notified that it cannot have a sign remain on school district property. The sign has been removed.”

A victory that FFRF obtained in Kentucky also involved religious signs, albeit of a slightly different kind. FFRF received a complaint by parents that a church, LaRue County Ministerial Association, which was renting space in LaRue County Public Schools, was leaving behind religious notes and materials for students.

Harootunian asked the district to ensure that if this church rented facilities in the future, it “be prohibited from leaving religious notes or materials for students, and that any religious notes and materials they leave on district property be removed before students return from summer break.”

The district responded by emphasizing that rental of school facilities has been suspended due to the pandemic.

FFRF also dissuaded a Florida public college from hosting invocations at its board meetings.

“Prayer at board meetings is unnecessary, inappropriate, and divisive,” Line wrote to Valencia College President Sanford Shugart. “Valencia College Board of Trustees members are free to pray privately or to worship on their own time in their own way. They do not need to worship at a time when they are gathered to address matters concerning a public college.”

Valencia College thanked FFRF for educating it on the matter. “As Valencia transitions back to in-person meetings, it will do so with the heightened awareness promoted by your letter,” the college recently wrote back.

FFRF convinced an Illinois school district to stop promoting religious summertime activities.

“It is a well-settled law that public schools may not advance or endorse religion,” Line wrote to Community Unit School District Superintendent Jeff Schuler.

The district graciously absorbed FFRF’s constitutional schooling.

“Please be aware that the district removed the listing for the event in question from its summer event handout,” the school system wrote back. “Please know that the district consistently adheres to its policies with respect to ensuring the constitutionally protected rights of its students and the broader district community.”

Finally, FFRF put a finish to prayerful board meetings in an Ohio school district.

“The Supreme Court has consistently struck down prayers offered at school-sponsored events,” Harootunian wrote to the LaBrae Local School District.

FFRF’s missive had a forceful impact.

“Effective with the June 8, 2020, meeting and all subsequent meetings, the LaBrae Local School Board will refrain from including a prayer at the openings of the board meetings,” School Board President Russell Sewell wrote back.

FFRF is delighted that its work is having so much of an impact nationwide — and appreciative to its legal staff and membership who enable this to happen. FFRF typically ends more than 300 similar violations every year through letters of complaint, offering this free service to members of the public seeking help to end state/church state/church entanglements. State/church violations may be reported here.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation’s largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), with more than 32,000 members, and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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