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Lauryn Seering

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LAUSDChatsworthChristianClub
The Freedom From Religion Foundation wants a number of illegal Los Angeles public school religious clubs to be investigated.

Last September, FFRF had drawn the Los Angeles Unified School District's attention to an unconstitutional bible club (the TRUTH Club), run by football coach Jesse Montes, at Sun Valley High School. The club is still operating with Montes' involvement, according to the school's website. FFRF received no response to its original letter. 

Now, FFRF has learned that there is a Christian Club convening every Friday at Chatsworth Charter High School. It is organized by Garrison Polsgrove, youth pastor at the Shepherd Church. (See image.) Polsgrove reportedly brings in free food to incentivize attendance, leads students in prayer, reads from the bible and delivers sermons. He has also been permitted to attend the school's open house to represent the Christian Club to community members and parents. Teachers have also participated in the meetings and promoted the club to students. FFRF Legal Fellow Madeline Ziegler contacted the school district in mid-May

The Equal Access Act prohibits school staff and outside adults from being involved in religious clubs. Religious clubs must be legitimately student-led, with school staff present only in a supervisory capacity and no outside adults in regular attendance. Staff also may not encourage students to attend religious meetings.

"School employees may not run or even participate in religious clubs in public schools, nor can they promote religious clubs or invite students to attend," FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel wrote to LA Unified School District Counsel David Holmquist in September. "Staff participation in religious activities at school leads any reasonable student to see the club's religious message as sponsored by the school." 

FFRF asks that the school district investigate both the Christian Club and the TRUTH Club. If the allegations are confirmed, the two clubs should be disbanded and the teachers involved appropriately disciplined.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is dedicated to the separation of state and church, with 23,700 members nationwide, including more than 3,000 in California.

We need to support Target in the face of a massive rightwing boycott over a new policy in which customers use the bathroom or fitting room that matches their gender identity.

The Religious Right, led by the dogmatic American Family Association, has organized a boycott of Target that has already attracted more than 1 million signatures. Target's share price has dropped in the past month. Protests have taken place around the country, and people have demanded access to the bathrooms, supposedly to assess if their wives and children are in danger. Analysts say that Target's sales could be affected. But CEO Brian Cornell is not backing down.
Read more.

CONTACT

There's a petition drive on MoveOn.org to counter the boycott push and to show Target that even with the Religious Right's opposition, it does have the backing of right-minded individuals. "We need to stand up for transgender people and stand up for those who support transgender people," it reads.

Sign the petition here.

Or you can directly get in touch with Target to express your views.

TALKING POINTS

I am contacting you to show my approval of your new transgender access policy. You can be assured that there are enough of us that you will not feel the effects of the boycott. I really do appreciate your company and CEO's strong stance in the face of hostility. Keep up the good work. I am on your side.

 

1VirginiaMilitaryThe Freedom From Religion Foundation is dismayed at the unconstitutional distribution of religious texts during the commencement at a famed public military institution.

At this year's ceremony on May 16, retired Gen. J. H. Binford Peay III, superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute, handed out bibles and other holy books to the graduating cadets. (See image.) The institute has been reportedly doing this since its founding and is intimately involved in providing the religious texts to cadets. In recent years, the institute has collected order forms for the cadets' preferred holy book to distribute as part of the ceremony. FFRF requests that this practice be ended.

"As a public institution, Virginia Military Institute's actions must conform with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment," FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott writes to Peay. "The courts have well settled that public schools may not endorse or advance religion." 

There are several problems with the institute dispersing bibles and other religious texts on stage, FFRF contends. Such a custom coerces cadets to accept these books. It also lacks a secular purpose. And it constitutes an advancement and endorsement of religion, as well as an unconstitutional entanglement with it. The defense that this is a long-standing tradition is no excuse, since Virginia Military Institute has had several unsavory traditions it has had to discontinue, such as not admitting women till the U.S. Supreme Court forced it to do so in the mid-1990s and not allowing in black cadets until the federal government compelled it.

Will the institute provide copies of Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion" to atheist students at the commencement if they request it, FFRF asks? And how exactly is it decided which version and translation of the bible to hand out? The way to avoid such vexing questions is to leave religion to individual cadets.

FFRF is extremely disappointed that holy texts were again distributed at the commencement yesterday and would like this to be the last year that this unconstitutional "tradition" occurs at the secular institute.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is dedicated to the separation of state and church, with 23,700 members nationwide, including more than 500 in Virginia.

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

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