FFRF shuts down proselytizing teacher in Raleigh County, W.V.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has stopped a Raleigh County School District teacher from continuing to foist his religion on elementary schoolchildren.

A concerned Bradley Elementary School parent informed the state/church watchdog that a teacher at the school was abusing his position to proselytize and impose his personal religious beliefs onto students. The teacher reportedly began his classes with bible stories and ended them by leading students in prayer. This school-sponsored religious activity has been apparently occurring since at least 2019. 

FFRF asked the district to ensure that the teacher is no longer discussing his religious beliefs with students, preaching to students, praying with students or in any way promoting religion to students. 

“Students have the First Amendment right to be free from religious indoctrination in their public schools,” FFRF attorney Chris Line wrote to Raleigh County School District Superintendent Serena L. Starcher.  “It is well settled that public schools may not show favoritism towards or coerce belief or participation in religion. When a teacher abuses his position to coerce young students to pray, that teacher violates students’ First Amendment rights.”

The Raleigh County School District has an obligation under the law to make certain that its teachers are not violating the rights of its students by proselytizing or using their position to promote their personal religious beliefs, FFRF emphasizes. Parents have the constitutional right to determine their children’s religious or nonreligious upbringing. Here, the teacher has violated the trust that our complainant and all other parents place in Raleigh County’s teachers to follow the Constitution and refrain from imposing their own religious beliefs on the children they teach. 

FFRF is pleased to have recently received an emailed response from Superintendent Starcher indicating that the district investigated the complaint and addressed the situation. FFRF’s complainant has confirmed the teacher is no longer reading bible stories or praying with students, and expressed their gratitude to FFRF for helping to end this constitutional violation. 

“Elementary-school-aged children are truly a vulnerable captive audience,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “A classroom teacher wields so much authority as an official representative of the district, and this was a clear abuse of power. Every family deserves to know that their children won’t be preached at during school hours.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 40,000 members across the country, including members in West Virginia. Our 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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