Texas school district won’t promote religious ceremonies

A Texas school district has assured the Freedom From Religion Foundation that it will stop publicizing private religion-infused baccalaureate ceremonies.

FFRF had contacted the Friendswood Independent School District with its concern that a baccalaureate service in the Friendswood High School on May 22 has been advertised on the district’s website and in a handout sent home with seniors.

“Public school cannot organize or promote baccalaureate services,” FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover wrote to legal counsel for the school district. “The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits public schools from sponsoring any type of religious practices. Baccalaureate programs are religious services that include prayer and worship.”

The school district admitted that it had made a mistake in publicizing the event and said it has taken swift measures to rectify the blunder.

“In order to remedy any confusion, Friendswood High School Principal Mark Griffon has sent a memorandum to all senior students indicating that the prior notice was sent in error and that the event is not school-sponsored,” the school district’s attorney replied. “Friendswood High School has also removed all references to the event from its calendar.” 

FFRF is appreciative about the district’s willingness to quickly correct itself. While the baccalaureate service itself will still take place, it is a privately sponsored event, as should be every baccalaureate event throughout the country.

“We do commend the swiftness with which the school district has acted,” FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor says. “Public schools need to be extra-careful to not promote religious events and fall afoul of the Constitution.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is dedicated to the separation of state and church, with 23,700 nonreligious members nationwide, including almost 1,000 in Texas.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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