FFRF flags religious promotion in Alabama

1vestaviaThe Freedom from Religion Foundation is sounding the alarm over an Alabama public school teacher’s promotion of a religious event. 

A third grade teacher at Vestavia Hills East in Vestavia Hills, Ala., recently publicized “Bring Your Bible to School Day” to her students, bringing up the event in front of her class in the middle of the school day. FFRF wants to ensure that district staff do not advertise religious occasions to schoolchildren in the future. 

“Public schools may not advance, prefer or promote religion,” FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover writes to Vestavia Hills City Schools Superintendent Sheila Phillips. “An event designed to promote a religious text cannot be organized or endorsed by public school representatives.” 

The district has an obligation under the law to make certain that “subsidized teachers do not inculcate religion,” to quote the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark Lemon v. Kurtzman case, FFRF adds. When a district teacher promotes her personal religious beliefs to students, she violates not only the Constitution, but also the trust of parents. 

Religion is a divisive force in public schools, FFRF points out. The promotion of a Christian event alienates those non-Christian students, families, teachers and members of the public whose religious beliefs are inconsistent with the message of the event being promoted, including 35 percent of young people who are not religious. 

The teacher reportedly told her students that it was their “choice” to participate in Bring Your Bible to School Day and that they should ask their parents for permission. But this does not mitigate the impression of district sponsorship of the bible and Christianity that the teacher has created. Moreover, federal courts have rejected the arguments that voluntariness excuses a constitutional violation. 

FFRF asks that the district investigate the situation and take action to ensure that its teachers understand and respect their constitutional obligations so that this sort of incident doesn’t recur. 

“Teachers should not be permitted to foist their religious beliefs on such young, impressionable children,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “This sort of biblical promotion ostracizes all the non-Christian students in class and undermines parents’ ability to dictate the religious or nonreligious upbringing of their children.” 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a state/church watchdog organization with affiliates and more than 23,000 members nationwide, including a long-lasting chapter, the Alabama Freethought Association.


Freedom From Religion Foundation

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