FFRF urges Fla. school district to protect students from proselytizing teacher

A palm beach county florida religious pamphlet handed out to highschool math students

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is urging the Palm Beach County School District in Florida to take corrective action after a high school math teacher presented students with overtly religious pamphlets.

A concerned Palm Beach County School District parent reported that the Santaluces High School teacher abused her position by proselytizing and imposing her personal religious beliefs on her students. The complainant reports that the teacher distributed devotional Christmas pamphlets from New Life Alliance Church to all of her students. The pamphlet relates a bogus description of the history of the candy cane along many accompanying bible verses.

The pamphlet tells students that they “belong to Jesus” and “are to follow only Him.” It instills the theology at the heart of the Christian religion, e.g.,, 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.” It further claims that the candy cane forms the letter “J,” supposedly to correspond with the first letter of “Jesus,” and unappetizingly insists that the red stripe on a candy cane represents the blood Jesus shed on the cross.

“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 writes.

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

Teachers have access to a captive audience of students due to their position as public educators. Therefore, the district has a duty to ensure no religious proselytizing during class, which would include a teacher distributing religious materials to students during class time and in her official role as a teacher.

FFRF is calling on the district to make certain that none of its employees continues to unlawfully and inappropriately indoctrinate students in religious matters, such as by promoting their personal religious beliefs, preaching, inviting students to their church or otherwise creating a religious environment in the classrooms.

“Public schools exist to educate, not indoctrinate into religion,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “This teacher showed a massive lapse in judgment bringing this absurd pamphlet into her classroom. It’s up to parents to decide their children’s religious upbringing—not their math teacher.”

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.

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Freedom From Religion Foundation

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