FFRF stops preaching Fla. math teacher from imposing Christianity on students

a photograph of a printed story given to students in a Florida math class

Students in a math class in the Palm Beach County School District in Florida will no longer be subjected to proselytization — thanks to the diligent efforts of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

FFRF wrote to the district in January after a Santaluces High School math teacher distributed devotional Christmas pamphlets from New Life Alliance Church to all of her students. The pamphlet proselytized through a fictitious description of the history of the candy cane, claiming that the white stripes stand for the purity of Jesus and the red for his bloodshed, with many accompanying bible verses. It told students that they “belong to Jesus” and “are to follow only Him.” It instilled the doctrine at the heart of the Christian religion that Jesus led a “pure, sinless life” only to die on the cross “for all of us so that we can have eternal life through Him.”

“The district must make certain that none of its employees is unlawfully and inappropriately indoctrinating students in religious matters by discussing their personal religious beliefs, preaching, inviting students to their church, or otherwise creating a religious environment in their classrooms,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line wrote.

It is a fundamental principle of Establishment Clause jurisprudence that a public school may not advance, prefer or promote religion, FFRF reiterated. The district has an obligation under the law to make certain that its teachers are not violating the rights of its students by missionizing and coercing students to participate in religious events or attend church. If the district continued to turn a blind eye to the overt proselytization and inappropriate conduct occurring in this teacher’s classroom, it would be complicit in an egregious constitutional violation and breach of trust.

FFRF’s appeal to reason prevailed.

Superintendent Michael J. Burke emailed FFRF’s complainant, writing, “This was a clear violation of School Board policy and we are in complete agreement that there is no place in our schools for proselytizing or antisemitism.” The teacher received a written reprimand as a result of an investigation, which is included in the employee’s personnel file.

“Religion plus math adds up to a serious violation in a public school classroom,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “We appreciate the district taking swift action in this matter, and stopping a teacher from abusing the trust parents and students place in her.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 40,000 members and several chapters across the country, including over 2,000 members and a local chapter in Florida. 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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