FFRF opposes daily piety at Houston school


The Freedom From Religion Foundation says a daily unconstitutional religious practice at a Houston public charter school must immediately cease.

A concerned district community member contacted FFRF to report that earlier this year, Energized for Stem Academy Principal Ranier Perez adopted a policy of including a bible reading during the morning announcements each school day. These announcements are reportedly broadcast over the school’s intercom for everyone to hear, with the chosen bible passages read directly by either Perez or another school employee.

FFRF is communicating to E-STEM Academy that it must end this ritual at once.

“The practice of opening each school day with a broadcast religious ritual is illegal,” FFRF Associate Counsel Sam Grover writes to Perez and Houston Independent School District Superintendent Richard A. Carranza. “Fifty-five years ago, the Supreme Court held that it was unconstitutional for schools to use the schools’ intercommunications systems to conduct daily opening exercises” that use the bible and prayer. 

Such a practice lends school endorsement to religion, FFRF asserts.

And beyond these legal considerations, avoiding the perception of religious endorsement by the school district protects the district’s religiously diverse young students, FFRF reminds E-STEM Academy and the Houston School District. When a district permits its representatives to promote religion over nonreligion — and, in this case, Christianity over all other faiths — to impressionable students, it ostracizes those non-Christian students whose religious beliefs are inconsistent with the message being promoted. It alienates the 47 percent of young Americans who are non-Christian, including the 38 percent under the age of 30 who practice no religion at all. More than one-fifth of those born after 1999 (i.e., all of E-STEM’s current students) identify openly as either atheist or agnostic.  

Nothing in the law prevents students, teachers or school administrators from freely exercising their religion on their own time and in their own way, FFRF emphasizes. But a public school itself must not broadcast a decidedly religious message to a captive student audience, thereby isolating and excluding those students who are non-Christian or nonreligious. That’s why FFRF is asking that the daily bible readings be removed from the E-STEM morning announcement routine and that the school remind its employees of their constitutional obligation not to promote their personal religious beliefs to students while acting on behalf of their school or district.

“It’s shocking that a principal of a public school could be so ignorant of landmark law protecting students from proselytizing by school officials,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nationwide nonprofit organization with more than 31,000 members across the country, including over 1,300 members in Texas. Its 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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