Nevada school to end violations after FFRF alert

1NVPrA Nevada school district has agreed to halt several constitutional violations at a local high school after being alerted by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Mojave High School Principal Antonio Rael and Grace Point Church Pastor Ty Neal were seen chatting in a video about the church’s “partnership” with the principal. Rael said he felt there was a “kingdom-moving opportunity inside the walls of Mojave.” Neal indicated that the church had been invited to move its worship services into the high school by Rael, who said that he felt a “prompting of the spirit” to do so. “Obviously I’m a Christian, I understand what it means to have the Christian influence on a campus,” he said. Rael also spoke about bringing the Young Life organization (a Christian youth outfit) into the school to mentor the students, a move he claimed was “totally legit legally.”

“Principal Rael’s comments in this video raise many constitutional concerns,” FFRF Legal Fellow Madeline Ziegler wrote late last year to Carlos McDade, legal counsel for the Clark County School District (with a follow-up letter in April). “As you are aware, it is a well-settled principle of Establishment Clause jurisprudence that public schools may not advance, prefer, or promote religion.” 

FFRF had requested that the School District (headquartered in Las Vegas) make certain that Rael abides by the restrictions that the U.S. Constitution places on him as the administrator of a public school. “The rental process at Mojave High School must be fair and equally open to everyone,” wrote Ziegler, “not subject to a Christian administrator’s wish to ‘plant’ a church at a school and the ‘prompting of the spirit’ he feels.” In addition, it asked that Mojave High School no longer permit Young Life or other such groups to preach to students, and ensure that Rael was not involved with student religious groups.

In a recent response, Clark County School District indicated that it had heard FFRF loud and clear.

“At the principal’s request, Grace Memorial Church has removed the video from,” McDade replied. “The Young Life organization no longer accesses the school during instructional time/schooldays but instead rents out space as an outside group. The district has also recently amended its regulation regarding student-led clubs and organizations. The amended regulation further clarifies that student-led religious clubs are noncurriculum-related and are not sponsored by the School District.” 

FFRF welcomes these steps.

“We appreciate that the School District took measures to stop these religious entanglements,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The district is, appropriately, ensuring there’s no continuing perception of school endorsement of a Christian missionary group.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is dedicated to the separation of state and church, with 23,800 nonreligious members, including more than 200 in Nevada.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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