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Lead Us Not Into Penn Station:Provocative Pieces

National Convention

September 15-17, 2017



Published by FFRF

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A teacher at Carver Middle School in Monroe, Ga., "turned her public school classroom into a Sunday school," preaching to students and talking about the importance of Christianity.

A local family was appalled by this blatant violation of the First Amendment and contacted the Freedom From Religion Foundation. FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel wrote to Superintendent Gary Hobbs on Oct. 24, asking him to investigate the situation and take the appropriate disciplinary action. Not only did the teacher reportedly talk about "knowing god," she did not offer a discussion of any other religion or religious preferences aside from Christianity. Seidel pointed out that the teacher said that "each of her students 'needs to be saved.'" He also called her daily sermons an assault on "vulnerable children."

"Public school teachers have no business indoctrinating schoolchildren in a particular religious sect, 'the preservation and transmission of religious beliefs and worship is a responsibility and a choice committed to the private sphere,'" wrote Seidel.

Hobbs replied to Seidel on Dec. 4 writing that the principal of Carver Middle School directed the teacher to "eliminate a personal discussion of religion, her church and her beliefs with students."

Endeavour Elementary School in New Haven, Mich., took down a lawn sign promoting a church that rents the school's cafeteria every Sunday.

After receiving a complaint from a local resident, FFRF Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert wrote the Superintendent of New Haven School District Keith Wunderlich on Oct. 11 about the impropriety of keeping a permanent sign promoting a church on school property.

Wunderlich responded with an Oct. 12 letter, acknowledging that keeping the sign up all week was a problem. He said the church complied with the district's request to only keep the sign up on Sundays, the day the church rents the cafeteria.

A principal will no longer be able to proselytize to the staff at Deaf Smith Elementary School in Rosenberg, Texas, in weekly newsletters, thanks to the action taken by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

FFRF Staff Attorney Stephanie Schmitt sent a letter on Nov. 12 to Lamar Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent Thomas Randle alerting the district to the principal's First Amendment violation. Schmitt wrote that the Friday newsletters, called “Friday Focus,” “regularly include bible verses, biblical references, and sermon-like discussions that reference Jesus and present biblical stories as fact.” The staff member complained to FFRF that the newsletter had turned into a “Sunday sermon.”

Randle responded in a Nov. 15 letter, which reported the district investigated the issue and found the religious newsletters were not in accord with the district's practice. The principal had been instructed to stop putting religious references in staff communications and the district will review his newsletters before they are sent to the school's staff, Randle said.

Elkhorn City Elementary School in Elkhorn City, Ky., will no longer allow organized prayer or display religious advertisements or fliers within the school building.

The principal of Elkhorn City Elementary School and Pike County Schools Superintendent Roger Wagner took this action as a result of a letter Wagner received from the Freedom From Religion Foundation on July 31.

FFRF Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert wrote to Wagner after a concerned parent told FFRF that his five-year-old daughter's teacher had been instructing her students to pray. His daughter had told him she had been praying every day before lunch for the past two years. The worried parent also told FFRF that the school had posted Christian and church event fliers. Markert wrote that the school should educate the teacher “about why public school authorities may not abuse positions of trust to proselytize four-year-olds or any students.”

Wagner and the principal each responded to FFRF in Nov. 1 and Oct. 30 letters, respectively, affirming that organized prayer and religion-endorsing fliers in the schools had ended.

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