N.C. school district assures FFRF about religious activities

A screenshot of social media posts about prayer

Union County Public Schools in North Carolina has informed the Freedom From Religion Foundation that it won’t promote religious events in its schools.

A concerned local community member had communicated to the state/church watchdog that Sardis Elementary School in Monroe, N.C., recently publicized a “prayer walk” event on its official Facebook page. On March 13, the school shared a post from a religious organization regarding a prayer walk that took place there. The group, Heart for Monroe, posted:

“God is so good! What an incredible night of prayer at Sardis Elementary School! A very special thank you to all those that came out from Sardis Elementary School, First Baptist Church of Indian Trail, Shiloh Baptist Church, Euto Baptist Church, and our community. Please continue to lift up the prayer requests mentioned tonight.” ❤️

The school added the message: “Thank you for the special prayer walk night.”

FFRF asked that Union County Public Schools cease using its official social media channels to promote religious events and messages and that religious groups not be given special access to district schools in the future. The U.S. Supreme Court has described the power of social media sites as being that of “the modern public square.” School officials must be particularly diligent not to entangle religious beliefs with official pronouncements made in this “modern public square.” And it appears that the district’s facility use policy does not allow rental of school hallways or grant the type of school access that was given to the organizers of this religious event.

“It is well settled that public schools may not show favoritism towards or coerce belief or participation in religion,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line wrote to the legal counsel for the school system. “Favoring religion is exactly what a school district does when it promotes religious events and messages using its official social media pages. Promoting religious events demonstrates that the district favors religion over nonreligion, and Christianity over all other faiths.”

Such sectarian religiosity also conflicts with the personal religious and nonreligious views of many district students and families, including the nearly one in three Americans who are religiously unaffiliated, FFRF added. At least a third of Generation Z (those born after 1996) have no religion, with a recent survey revealing almost half of Gen Z qualify as “Nones” (religiously unaffiliated).

FFRF’s alert has propelled the school district to act in the right way.

“Thank you for bringing this to our attention,” the district’s legal counsel recently responded via email. “The post has been removed and we are working with staff to ensure that they understand the requirements related to activities at the school.”

FFRF is always happy to nudge governmental entities onto the correct constitutional course.

“A major purpose of ours is to make certain that public officials honor our secular Constitution and keep divisive religion out of our public schools,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “We’re glad that Union County Public Schools has given us such an assurance.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with 40,000 members  and several chapters across the country, including more than 900 members and a local chapter in North Carolina. 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

Send this to a friend