The Freedom From Religion Foundation is insisting that teachers at a Wisconsin high school end their involvement in a student religious club.
A concerned member informed FFRF that School District of Onalaska employees participate in the student religious club Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Onalaska High School. Local media have stated that both Josh Lichty, freshmen football coach and fifth-grade teacher at Northern Hills Elementary, and high school teacher Amanda Steele "participated in the discussions" about prayer with students at a recent Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting in Steele's classroom. Lichty reportedly asked students "how and why they prayed," and counseled them that "a big step is praying before an event with your team. Then you as a team are playing for something bigger than a 'W.' What you are doing is showing His light everywhere." Lichty went on to recommend that students pray in the morning rather than getting extra sleep.
It is unconstitutional for district employees to participate in student religious clubs, even if those clubs meet during noninstructional time.
"It is well settled that public schools may not advance, prefer, or promote religion," FFRF Legal Fellow Ryan Jayne writes to Superintendent Fran Finco. "Students are permitted to form religious clubs, but the district may not endorse, or appear to endorse, those clubs. To avoid the appearance of endorsing a religious club, the district may not allow teachers or outside adults to be involved in student religious clubs beyond a supervisory capacity."
FFRF adds that the Equal Access Act, which allows the Fellowship of Christian Athletes club to form, requires that "employees or agents of the school or government are present at religious meetings only in a nonparticipatory capacity." Any school religious groups must be bona fide student clubs that are both student-initiated and student-run.
FFRF is asking for assurances that Lichty and Steele will not be present at future Fellowship of Christian Athletes meetings, and that any staff members who chaperone club meetings in the future will not participate. Since Lichty and Steele freely admitted their transgression to the local media, FFRF also requests that the club be assigned a new faculty sponsor who will adhere to the Equal Access Act and the U.S. Constitution.
"It is important for teachers to not flout constitutional principles," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "The school district needs to enforce that."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a Madison-based national nonprofit that works to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church. It represents more than 28,000 members across the country, including 1,400-plus in Wisconsin.
The event is being sponsored by the Freedom From Religion Foundation and will be co-hosted by FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor.
Dan Barker, FFRF co-president, is the author of Life Driven Purpose: How an Atheist Finds Meaning, an answer to Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life. A talented pianist and songwriter, Dan has recorded three music CDs for FFRF. Dan has a degree in religion from Azusa Pacific University, worked as a missionary and assistant minister, and had a musical ministry until he “just lost faith in faith” in his early 30s. He joined FFRF’s staff in 1987, and in 2004 became FFRF co-president with Annie Laurie Gaylor. His other books include Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist, Godless, the Good Atheist and God: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction.
Zenos Frudakis is a renowned sculptor known for his public monuments, portrait statues, busts and figurative sculptures. He has created an extensive award-winning collection of more than 100 bronze sculptures in public and private collections. His work includes sculptures of historic figures such as Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, General Eisenhower and Sir Winston Churchill. Freedom, his best known sculpture, has become an Internet icon inspiring many in their quest to break free from boundaries. It has been listed in The Top Ten: Public Art by The Independent.
The oldest of five children growing up in Greek culture, Zenos admired, respected, and was drawn to Greek sculpture. Greek art influenced his aesthetic vision; additional inspiration came from sculptors Michaelangelo, Bernini, Carpeaux and Rodin. Zenos studied by scholarship at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, completing his formal education with a Bachelor in Fine Art and a Master in Fine Art at the University of Pennsylvania.
Zenos' emphasis has been the figure and the portrait. He excels at expressing the character and vitality of his subjects while capturing an accurate likeness. Zenos portfolio includes figure sculpture, animals, bas-reliefs, portraits—both busts and paintings—of living and historical individuals, and poetic/philosophical sculpture with a post-modern sensibility.
Although Zenos creates personal, expressive works of art, he is a commissioned artist with wide-ranging versatility capable of sculpting subjects from the human form to animals.
Nicole, a guest of honor, is a college student whose family took part as the "Does" in FFRF v. Rhea County, a federal lawsuit that ended illegal bible instruction in Dayton schools. The federal lawsuit resulted in a firm ruling against the practice, a legacy of the Scopes Trial involving bible students from William Jennings Bryan Bible College going into the public schools, by both a district court and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Friday, July 14 marks the first day of the 29th annual Scopes Trial Play and Festival. Following the dedication of the Clarence Darrow statue that Friday, you may wish to attend the reenactment of the Scopes Trial play, performed annually in the historic court-house where the Scopes Trial took place in Dayton, Tenn.
The play is performed two weekends in a row, July 14-15 and July 22-23 at the Rhea County Courthouse, 1475 Market St., Dayton TN 37321. Space is limited. Reserve promptly to avoid disappointment.
Purchase tickets when available directly from the Tennessee Valley Theater at 423.365.PLAY (7529). Website: scopesfestival.com
The historic courthouse and museum may be toured, and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977.
$45 includes 20 percent service charge and 9.25 percent state tax
Suitable for vegetarians.
- Confetti Cole Slaw
- Three Bean Salad
- Panzanella Salad (Chattanooga Sourdough)
- Cajun Fried Turkey Breast, Blackened Turkey Gravy
- Marinated Pork Shoulder, Carolina Clear BBQ
- Slow Cooked Roast Beef, Pan Sauce
- Classic Mac n' Cheese with Aged Cheddar & Gruyère Cheese
- Beer Braised Collards
- Sweet Potato Mash with Brown
- Sugar-Maple Butter & Pecans
- Fried Green Tomato Slices, Roasted Red Pepper Chèvre Remoulade Cornbread Muffins, Honey Butter | Yeast Rolls | Biscuits
- Includes coffee, tea, sweet tea, & desserts: Strawberry Short Cake | Banana Pudding | Fried Apple Pies | Pecan Pie
The Chattanoogan Hotel
1201 Broad St.
A courtesy bloc while rooms last is being held for Wed., July 12, Thursday, July 13 and Friday, July 14 at The Chattanoogan, site of FFRF's dinner party. The rate of $149 plus tax includes free WiFi. Parking is extra.
Make your own reservations, using the code "Clarence Darrow Party if you phone (800) 619-0018.
Or register online at The Chattanoogan for The Clarence Darrow Party rooms using this direct link.
There are many other hotels and motels in Chattanooga. Nearby hotels include the Marriot and Staybridge.
Downtown Chattanooga has lots of charm, offers attractions and easy walking, a variety of restaurants, an aquarium, a riverfront, an art district and pedestrian bridge.
Chattanoogan Hotel, 1201 Broad St.
Thursday, July 13
Dinner Party Details
You're cordially invited to a Chattanooga dinner party celebrating the installation on July 13 of a statue of the famed Scopes Trial litigator in Dayton, Tenn. The public dedication of the statue will take place the next day in Dayton on Friday, July 14. Dayton is about 40 miles from Chattanooga.
Talented sculptor Zenos Frudakis will give a short visual presentation at the dinner party. Co-President Dan Barker will entertain at the piano. Guest of honor will be Nicole Jacobsen, who grew up in Dayton and whose family were the unnamed plaintiffs in FFRF's federal lawsuit ending a legacy of the Scopes trial — weekly bible instruction in the public schools by bible students from William Jennings Bryan Bible College. FFRF, Nicole and her brave family won the case at the district level and at the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2004. Learn more about the speakers here.
- Register for Darrow Dinner Party now!
Where to stay
For your convenience a courtesy bloc of rooms is being held while they last at The Chattanoogan Hotel, site of the dinner party. Register at the hotel and learn more about downtown Chattanooga and other nearby hotels.
Participants who attend the Friday, July 14 dedication may wish to view the annual Scopes Play reenacting the Scopes Trial. The Scopes Trial Play and Festival opens Friday, July 14. Purchase your own tickets for the play and learn more about it.