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A UW graduate, TIM NOTT has called Madison home since 1991. He began his career doing campus IT support while completing a BA in English. The Internet had just become graphical and the opportunity for inexpensive, scalable communication piqued Tim's interest. After 15 years in the industry he took the entrepreneurial plunge, cofounding a startup and building a platform to help make mobile application technology as accessible and ubiquitous as the Web. The company expanded services to work on drones and the Internet of Things. Tim brings his entrepreneurial and technological skills to FFRF where he focuses on our digital products and IT infrastructure.

OrangeCountyBoardofEducation

The Orange County Board of Education's practice of opening its meetings with invocations must end. FFRF is asking local members to protest the practice at the next school board meeting on Oct. 5.

The tradition the California school board has set up allows for interested people to request to deliver the invocation, with formal guidelines instituted for the practice. In a press release, FFRF asserts that "it is beyond the scope of a public school board to schedule or conduct prayer as part of its meetings." Another school board in California has already witnessed the consequences of ignoring the Constitution. February of this year, FFRF won a victory in California in a similar case (FFRF et al v. Chino Valley School District Board of Education). A federal court declared the practice unconstitutional and the district is now on the hook for $200,000 because it refused to stop praying at meetings..

FFRF also objects to the posting of "In God We Trust" in the school board meeting chambers, as well as the board's passing of several religious resolutions. Past resolutions have honored the National Day of Prayer, an annual Christian event, and Easter.

This sort of government endorsement of religion excludes the 23 percent of Americans who are nonreligious. Board members may pray in private or to worship in their own time, in their own way if they so choose. They may not endorse religious practices in their capacities as school board representatives.

Despite FFRF's legal requests to the Orange County Board of Education to end invocations during meetings, we have learned that the practice will likely continue at the next board meeting on Oct. 5.

Please attend the school board meeting if possible, or contact the Orange County school board and tell them to end the invocations!

TAKE ACTION

Meeting info:
When: Wednesday, October 5, 2016, 10:00 a.m.
Where: 200 Kalmus Drive, Costa Mesa, CA 92628

CONTACT

If you cannot attend the meeting, please phone or email to voice your concern to the Orange County Board of Education.

Call the school board at 714-966-4012 or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

TALKING POINTS

Feel free to utilize the talking points below:

Please end the practice of scheduling invocations during school board meetings. Promotion of religion during meetings is a violation of the principle enshrined in the First Amendment guaranteeing the separation of church and state. Intentional ignorance of the law by continuing the invocations is unconstitutional and poses a threat to free thought in California's public schools. It could also be costly—another California school board recently had its prayer practice struck down by a federal court and now must pay $200,000 of the other side's attorneys fees.

School board members are free to pray on their own time. While acting as a school board representative, you must honor decades of firm Supreme Court precedent barring divisive religious worship from public schools, instead of promoting religion by including prayer during meetings.

BACKGROUND

Read more about the FFRF's legal victory in California last February over the same violation:

Religious resolutions:

OrangeCountyBoardofEducation

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is continuing its objection to a California school board's practice of starting its meetings with an invocation.

The Orange County Board of Education has a tradition of beginning each meeting with an invocation. It allows interested people to request to deliver the invocation and has set up guidelines.

It is beyond the scope of a public school board to schedule or conduct prayer as part of its meetings, FFRF asserts. FFRF recently won a victory (FFRF et al v. Chino Valley School District Board of Education) in California over this very violation, with a federal court declaring the practice unconstitutional and awarding FFRF $200,000 in costs and attorney fees. Other federal courts have also similarly struck down the practice. The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway that permits sectarian prayers at legislative meetings is not applicable because public school boards are not deliberative legislative bodies. In addition, there is no "historical precedent" or an "unambiguous and unbroken history" of prayers at school board meetings. Most important, school board members should be leading by example in upholding 65 years of firm Supreme Court precedent barring divisive religious worship from public schools.

"It is coercive, embarrassing and intimidating for nonreligious citizens to be making a show of their nonbelief (by not rising or praying) or else to display deference toward a religious sentiment in which they do not believe, but their school board members clearly do," FFRF Legal Fellow Madeline Ziegler wrote to the Orange County Board of Education last month. "Board members should not be promoting religion by including prayer in meetings."

FFRF emphasized that this sort of governmental endorsement of religion excludes the 23 percent of Americans who are nonreligious. Board members are instead free to pray privately or to worship on their own time in their own way.

FFRF also objects to the posting of "In God We Trust" in the school board meeting chambers, as well as the board's passing of several religious resolutions. Past resolutions have honored the National Day of Prayer, an annual Christian event, and Easter. "Christians and Christianity have contributed greatly to the development of Orange County from the time of Junipero Serra to today," the Easter resolution states. The board has not passed any resolutions honoring any other religious holidays.

FFRF's reasoning has so far not moved the Orange County Board of Education. The organization has learned that the invocation practice will probably be continued at the next board meeting on Oct. 5. It is asking that the board immediately refrain from scheduling such invocations at future meetings and uphold the rights of conscience embodied in the First Amendment and recently reaffirmed by a California federal court's decision in FFRF's favor

"The Orange County Board of Education can see in California itself the consequences of disobeying the Constitution," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "School boards exist to oversee secular education, not indoctrination of children."

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nationwide nonprofit organization dedicated to the separation of state and church, with more than 23,000 nonreligious members across the country, including 3,000-plus in California.

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FFRF is not an atheist group

1catholiccharitiesThe Freedom From Religion Foundation is deeply concerned about a Catholic organization possibly being given charge of a public center for the homeless in Wisconsin's capital.

Dane County is planning to contract with Catholic Charities Madison, a religious group, to provide a publicly paid and affiliated resource center for the homeless. The Catholic Charities Inc. Diocese of Madison has an explicitly religious mission, stating in its tax return that it "serves as a visible presence of the Catholic Church of the Diocese of Madison by providing services that effectively address the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of individuals and families." (emphasis added) Dane county resources should not be used to help provide "a visible presence of the Catholic Church" and should not be put toward "spiritual needs."

While it is laudable that Catholic Charities works to address community needs, it has a distinctly Roman Catholic affiliation. The organization was recently described by the Wisconsin State Journal as being the "outreach arm of the church." Its headquarters is located alongside the Madison Catholic Diocese at Holy Name Heights. Bishop Robert Morlino describes the goals of Catholic Charities on its website in purely religious terms: "Let us go forward then in our shared mission so that good might overcome evil or be drawn out of evil according to God's Plan, His Providence which alone makes all things new. May the blessings of an always deeper faith, health and safety be with you and yours." Morlino is a permanent ex-officio member of the Catholic Charities board.

Bishop Morlino notoriously said when ordaining six new priests following the landmark Supreme Court decision in 2015 that legalized gay marriage: "Our response to that fateful announcement is six new warriors against evil." His efforts to silence dissent and vilify LGBTQ folks are well documented in the local media.

Despite assurances from Catholic Charities that it "serve[s] and employ[s] persons regardless of sexual orientation, religious, ethnic, racial or social background," FFRF questions how the organization can do so and remain true to church doctrine. It also wonders whether the resource center will be used to proselytize. Such a use of this publicly funded facility will be contrary to the dictates of the Wisconsin and U.S. Constitutions, FFRF asserts.

The homeless include women of childbearing age who are in need of reproductive medical help, as well as the LGBTQ community. Catholic ideology is officially at loggerheads with both reproductive and LGBTQ rights.

Catholic-related entities have refused to subscribe to the rules promulgated under the Affordable Care Act to ensure that women employees have access to contraceptive insurance. The Catholic Church is behind much of the ongoing litigation over the Obama administration's work to ensure that workers are covered.

"The homeless come in all religious and nonreligious stripes, who, regardless of affiliation, are in desperate need of even-handed and secular facilities without fear of religious coercion or expectation of worship in order to utilize such services," FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor writes to Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. "Those of us taxpayers who are nonreligious, comprising 24 percent of the population, today outnumber rank and file Roman Catholics. Non-Catholic believers — Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Wiccan, Hindu and others — are equally concerned with our tax dollars being used wisely and equitably to ameliorate conditions for the homeless in our county." 

It is not necessary for county government to partner with a religious organization to fulfill needed community services. This is a case where religion will get most of the credit for charity, while taxpayers will get almost all of the bill. FFRF urges Dane County to instead partner with a secular organization or make arrangements so that the county itself is providing programming at the resource center.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nationwide nonprofit organization headquartered in Madison that represents nearly 24,000 members across the country, including more than 450 members in Dane County itself and approximately 1,300 in Wisconsin.

 

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

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator

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