FFRF offers to tutor Indiana school officials


The Freedom From Religion Foundation is offering to educate an Indiana school district on state-and-church separation after problematic remarks regarding public school prayer. 

Superintendent Thomas Kopatich of Indiana’s Metropolitan School District Mount Vernon made recent comments to the press regarding FFRF’s complaint to another Indiana school district about high school football coaches participating in prayers with their students.
“It’s sad that it’s coming to that place that we’re trying to eliminate that,” Kopatich was reported as saying. “People have to realize, if you don’t want to be there or you don’t want to participate in something of that nature, you don’t have to. It’s a choice.”
Kopatich also admitted to leading students in Christian prayers himself when he was a public school coach and that he was cautioned to “be careful” with it. 
FFRF has sent a letter to Kopatich addressing these statements, which raise several serious concerns. FFRF points out that voluntariness does not excuse a constitutional violation and that leading students in prayer is illegal, not something “to be careful with.” 

“As a superintendent you must understand that allowing students the choice to opt-out of a religious activity with their coach does not make it permissible,” writes FFRF Staff Attorney Ryan Jayne. “Your statements encourage your employees to violate these students’ rights by endorsing religion at school-sponsored events.”

This is especially concerning, FFRF notes, because a superintendent must enforce constitutional compliance in a school district in order to protect students’ right to a secular public school. 
“For years, you used your government position to impose your personal religion on other people’s children and recently you encouraged your staff to do the same,” summarizes Jayne. “We urge you to schedule a districtwide training on constitutional boundaries regarding religious endorsement.” 

If district counsel is unable to provide such a training, FFRF would be happy to offer more guidance and education on these issues. 

“It is a top priority of ours to educate school districts on church and state separation in public schools so as to avoid constitutional violations,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “We hope the superintendent has heeded our warning on unconstitutional prayer.” 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with over 30,000 members and 20 chapters across the country, including more than 450 members in Indiana. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Photo Source: James Steidl / Shutterstock 

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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