Kentucky school district halts proselytizer access following FFRF complaint

The Freedom From Religion Foundation and its Kentucky chapter have blocked a Christian organization’s infiltration into athletic programs throughout a Kentucky school district.

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes had embedded itself into athletic programs all over the Jefferson County Public Schools system (located in Louisville), including in elementary schools. The group sent adult representatives to lead “voluntary” chapel or religious services during athletic practices at district schools, in some cases with the role of an officially designated “team chaplain.”

These occurrences raised serious constitutional concerns, FFRF pointed out. Any student-run Fellowship of Christian Athletes groups has to be truly student-led and initiated, FFRF emphasized.

“It is a well-settled principle of Establishment Clause jurisprudence that public schools may not advance, prefer, or promote religion,” FFRF Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert wrote last month to Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Donna Hargens. “Any school religious groups must be bona fide student clubs that are both student-initiated and student-run. It is inappropriate and unconstitutional for public schools to offer a Christian minister unique access to befriend and proselytize student athletes.” 

FFRF requested that the school district investigate the matter immediately and put a stop to such behavior.

The district recently responded that it has taken corrective measures. Hargens outlined in a letter to the head of the local chapter (Edwin Hensley) a number of steps it has put into place to curtail Fellowship activities in local schools. 

“The school district took the right, though belated, step to rein in the Fellowship,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Proselytizing organizations should never be given access to impressionable children.”

FFRF is a national nonprofit organization with almost 24,000 members across the country, including more than 150 members and a chapter in Kentucky.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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