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Lead Us Not Into Penn Station:Provocative Pieces

National Convention

September 15-17, 2017

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Lauryn Seering

Lauryn Seering

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A Missouri school district has stopped using faulty sex-ed materials after a Freedom From Religion Foundation warning.

FFRF sent out letters in early April to 15 Missouri public and charter school districts objecting to school-sponsored sex education being conducted by Thrive St. Louis. Thrive's "Best Choice" sex education curriculum only promotes abstinence, offering little information other than shame and risks that await sexually active students. Thrive requires that its employees "be committed Christian[s] who demonstrate a personal relationship with Jesus Christ." Clearly the aim of the organization is to win over Christian converts to advance its spiritual mission. Missouri public schools must not allow this anti-science evangelism into secular classrooms, FFRF emphasized.

"It is inappropriate for a public school to allow an organization widely reputed for pushing a religious agenda to speak to a captive student audience, especially when coupled with inaccurate and potentially dangerous medical advice," wrote FFRF Legal Fellow Ryan Jayne

FFRF urged that these Missouri public school districts stop using dubious outside materials to teach sex ed to their students. One district has already listened. The Warren County R-III School District has indicated to FFRF that it will revamp its syllabus.

The curriculum "is not consistent with district policy and Board-adopted curriculum standards," Superintendent Jim Chandler responded. "Accordingly, the district will halt use of outside consultants with respect to sex education instruction to further review curriculum, effective immediately." 

FFRF is gratified that it provided the impetus for the change.

"We're pleased that Warren County R-III School District modified its policy with alacrity," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "We are hopeful that at least a few others among the more than a dozen other school districts we contacted in Missouri for using a similar faulty curriculum will follow its lead."

The Freedom From Religious Foundation is a nationwide nonprofit organization that works to protect the constitutional separation of church and state. It represents more than 27,000 nonreligious members across the country, including 300-plus in Missouri.

 

An ominous bill designed to allow a private megachurch to operate its own police force, which we asked you to oppose in the Alabama Senate, unfortunately passed the Senate and is now in the Alabama State House. Please take action against this bill that recklessly undermines the fundamental purpose of public law enforcement by contacting the Alabama House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.

SB 193 would authorize Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Vestavia Hills, Ala., to independently employ full-time police officers "to protect the safety and integrity of the church and its ministries."

This unprecedented bill would have the church take on the role of the government and could lead to crimes being covered up by the congregation. If passed, this bill would invite the creation of a private law enforcement department run by any number of different religious groups, and other private entities, throughout the state.

CONTACT

SB 193 has been approved by the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee and will now go the Alabama House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee. Please call and email Allen Treadaway, the Chair of the Alabama House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee today to voice your opposition to this alarming bill. Tell him to kill this bill.

Click here to call the chair.
Click here to email the chair.

Let our simple automated system contact your representative via phone or email. The wording in the automated comment section is editable. We encourage you to add your own thoughts to personalize the message text, subject heading or signature.

(Keep reading for more information about SB 193.)

BACKGROUND

The Briarwood Presbyterian Church has more than 4,000 members and two private schools. The reason it now wants to employ its own private police force is supposedly due to security concerns. But, the church complex, located between Jefferson and Shelby County, is already policed by sheriff's deputies from both counties. The Vestavia Hills Police Department also patrols the area.

Furthermore, if the church has ongoing security concerns, there's nothing preventing it from hiring private security. Instead of addressing its needs the same way that countless other private entities have done, Briarwood Presbyterian is asking the state for special treatment. According to experts, a congregation with its own police force would be unparalleled in the U.S.

The bill is short on details and it is unclear what level of public accountability this church-run police unit would have. However, given that the church is not subject to records requests, this new police unit would certainly be less publicly accountable than regular state-run police departments. Briarwood would be allowed to hire as many officers as it wants.

If the Alabama Legislature chooses to open this door, it cannot be shut again. The state cannot discriminate between different religious sects or between religious and nonreligious groups. The proposed law offers no criteria for permitting Briarwood Presbyterian to possess its own police unit, which means that any private entity that is denied similar treatment from the Statehouse would have grounds for a lawsuit.

READ MORE

FFRF statement: FFRF vehemently opposes Ala. church police force bill

Alabama Senate Votes to Allow Church to Form Police Dept.

 

1Onalaska
A huge prayer display has been removed from a Wisconsin police station thanks to the Freedom From Religion Foundation intervening on behalf of the Constitution.

A concerned area resident contacted FFRF that the Onalaska Police Department had a large religious display (seen in the above picture) on the wall of a public room in a local police station.

It is laudable for the police department to recognize the challenges officers face and to promote compassion and courage in law enforcement. But these sentiments should not be couched in the religious message that a god should be the officers' "guide " in their work, and is responsible for their success and safety, FFRF asserted. It is unconstitutional for the Onalaska Police Department to endorse this religious viewpoint, FFRF emphasized, since anyone viewing this display would understand it to be endorsing religion and belief in a god.

"Displaying 'A Police Officer's Prayer' in the police station demonstrates a preference for religion over nonreligion on behalf of the Onalaska Police Department," FFRF Legal Fellow Ryan Jayne wrote to Onalaska Police Chief Jeffrey Trotnic in January. "By endorsing belief in a god, the Onalaska Police Department sponsors a religious message, which is 'impermissible because it sends the ancillary message to . . . nonadherents'" that they are not full members of the political community, to quote the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Citizens interact with and rely on law enforcement officers during some of the most urgent and vulnerable times of their lives, FFRF reminded Trotnic. The Onalaska Police Department's religious display conveyed a message to nonreligious citizens that they weren't favored members of the political community. More than 23 percent of American adults are nonreligious, including about 35 percent of Millennials, FFRF informed Trotnic. Law enforcement must be even-handed and avoid any appearance of bias toward some citizens or hostility toward others.

FFRF requested that the prayer display be removed immediately. The Onalaska Police Department recently informed FFRF that it has acceded to the organization's request.

"Dear Mr. Jayne: The item in question has been removed," Trotnic has written back

"We'll take that as a victory for the Constitution," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "Nonbelievers in Onalaska will now feel fully included, as they should be in our secular state."

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a Wisconsin-based nationwide nonprofit organization with more than 27,000 nonreligious members and chapters all over the country, including 1,400-plus and a chapter in Wisconsin. Its purpose is to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church.

 

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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