FFRF gets religious fundraising halted in Calif. schools

Castaic Union School District logo

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has persuaded a California school district to no longer permit religious fundraising in its schools.

A concerned Castaic Union School District parent reported to the state/church watchdog that Castaic Middle School was holding a fundraiser for “Three Angels Haiti,” a Christian ministry, organized and promoted by administrators and teachers at Castaic Middle School. Three Angels Haiti’s mission is “to help children in Haiti escape poverty so that they may experience God’s love.” It also describes its goals as “to help [children] escape poverty, encounter Jesus, and become part of a healthy home.” Students in the Christian school supported by the ministry “line up by class every school day and recite Psalm 23 and the Lord’s Prayer and then sing the national anthem and some worship songs before heading to their classrooms.”

Organizing a fundraiser that for all intents and purposes employs school staff and resources to proselytize children in Haiti violates basic constitutional principles, FFRF attorney Chris Line wrote to Castaic Union School District Superintendent Bob Brauneisen. It is inappropriate for public school teachers to use their authority to encourage students to donate to religious groups for religious purposes. It also conflicts with the religious and nonreligious views of many district students and families, since 37 percent of the American population is non-Christian, including the almost 30 percent who are nonreligious.

FFRF requested that the school district end the religious fundraiser, redirect its charitable efforts to a secular organization, and refrain from all future promotion and coordination of fundraisers for religious ministries such as Three Angels Haiti.

The Castaic Union School District proved quite open to FFRF’s reasoning. The district superintendent recently sent the following response: “The district has looked into the concerns raised in your correspondence and will be taking the following corrective actions. The district will immediately end the fundraising initiative related to ThreeAngelsHaiti.org. No such further efforts will be made. No further requests for donating to this charity will be made. Moreover, any funds collected will not be distributed to the Three Angels organization.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is always glad to have an educative effect.

“We’re appreciative that the district took such a multitude of steps after hearing from us,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “There are many secular charities that help children irrespective of religion and that do not care what children in need think about religion. Those are the charities public schools should promote.”

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 5,100 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. 

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