Missouri school employees should not evangelize

Several Missouri public school employees are unconstitutionally promoting evangelical youth ministries, charges the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

It was reported to FFRF that South Valley Middle School and Liberty High School teachers in Liberty, Mo., are spreading the word about Young Life and Wyldlife on school property and during school time in their professional capacities. (Young Life has as its explicit mission “introducing adolescents to Jesus Christ and helping them grow in their faith,” with Wyldlife sharing in this purpose.) The teachers wear T-shirts during the school day with the names of these ministries emblazoned on them. It was also reported that two teachers have posted publicity flyers, with at least one advertised meeting for Young Life taking place in the school during the school day.

District employees may not promote or champion religious organizations either in their official capacities or during the school day, FFRF asserts. As government employees, public school employees have the obligation to avoid the appearance of endorsing religion under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

“When Liberty High or South Valley Middle School employees advertise for Young Life or Wyldlife during the school day, they are using government time and resources to promote their personal beliefs,” writes FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott to Liberty Public Schools Superintendent Jeremy Tucker. “Such actions, especially in the context of the public school system, violate the Constitution. By allowing teachers to promote local evangelical organizations during the school day, the Liberty Public School system is endorsing these groups in violation of the First Amendment.”

FFRF notes that regulating what public school employees may advertise or promote in their official capacities doesn’t violate their free speech rights. Public school teachers have access to a captive audience of students due to their positions as educators. Therefore, the school district has a duty to restrict religious proselytizing during the school day.

FFRF asks Liberty Public Schools to investigate the situation and to make certain that its employees are not unlawfully and inappropriately promoting religious organizations during school hours.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a state/church watchdog organization with more than 23,000 members nationally, including almost 300 in Missouri.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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