1) PRAYER AT SCHOOL EVENTS
School events, including graduations, may not include prayer. For more than 50 years, the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently struck down prayer in public schools.
School staff, including coaches, may not organize, endorse, promote, or participate in prayers with students. Teachers and coaches may not lead prayers or deputize students to lead prayer. Even a public school coach’s silent participation in student prayer circles has been ruled unconstitutional. Borden. Schools and athletic teams may not appoint or employ a chaplain or other spiritual leader.
2) COMPELLING PLEDGES OF ALLEGIANCE
Students have a constitutional right not to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. Nor can students be required to stand or otherwise be penalized for exercising this right. Even before “under God” was belatedly added to the previously secular pledge in 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court had already affirmed this right.
3) SCHOOL BIBLE DISTRIBUTIONS
The distribution of bibles to students on public school property is prohibited. Allowing bible distributions in public schools or on public school property is an “affront not only [to] non-religious people but [to] all those whose faiths, or lack of faith, does not encompass the New Testament.”
Schools may not teach religious doctrine, including creationism and “intelligent design.” The Supreme Court has firmly struck down attempts to prohibit evolution or teach “scientific creationism” in public schools. No controversy exists in the scientific community regarding evolution, which, like gravity, is a fact. Teaching that there is controversy about the validity of evolution in science class is akin to teaching astrology along with astronomy, or alchemy with chemistry. The scientific literacy of students and our nation is at stake.
5) DENIAL OF ATHEIST STUDENT CLUBS
Schools may not ban atheist/secular clubs if other non-curricular clubs are allowed. Under the Equal Access Act, if public secondary schools permit noncurricular clubs, they cannot discriminate against student clubs based on their religious, political, philosophical or other beliefs. All clubs must receive the same rights and privileges.
6) GRADUATION IN CHURCHES
School events, including graduations, should not be held in houses of worship. Public school programming, including graduations, testing and recitals, should not occur in churches, because any student could “reasonably conclude that the District would only choose such a proselytizing environment aimed at spreading religious faith . . . if the District approved of the Church’s message.” Budget considerations cannot trump students’ rights.
7) CHURCHES MEETING IN SCHOOLS
Churches must abide by school rental policies, pay fees, and only use property during rental hours. Granting a fee waiver or discount to a church is illegal preferential treatment, forcing taxpayers to subsidize religion. Rental rates should minimally cover extra costs, including AC, heat, janitorial overtime and clean-up, etc. The church may not use school property during non-rental hours — including to store equipment, park a trailer, or display messages or advertising. The practice of churches renting public schools for worship remains divisive and controversial because of the inevitable appearance of school sanction, spurring ongoing litigation.
8) DISPLAYING RELIGIOUS MESSAGES
Religious displays are not permitted in public schools. Courts have continually held that school districts may not display religious messages or iconography in public schools, including crosses, the Ten Commandments, bible verses, bibles, religious figures, portraits of Jesus, etc., even if privately paid for. These may not be displayed on public school grounds, public school hallways, offices, classrooms, or anywhere in view of students and parents.
9) YOUTH PASTOR ACCESS TO STUDENTS
Schools may not give religious groups unique access to school property to befriend, proselytize or give presentations to students. Schools may not allow pastors, religious youth clubs, ministers or churches onto school grounds during the school day to “talk” with students.
10) PROSELYTIZING VIA MUSIC
It is a principle of our public educational system that every activity in a public school ought to have an educational purpose. Elementary school music classes and high school choruses are a frequent source of school First Amendment violations. The line is crossed when that purpose becomes devotional, proselytizing or religiously coercive.
‘VOLUNTARINESS’ IS NO EXCUSE
Public schools that host religious events often excuse them by calling them “voluntary.” Students are a captive audience who, as the Supreme Court has stated repeatedly, cannot be required to forfeit rights or benefits as the price of resisting state sponsored religious practices.
If you are aware of these or similar violations in your public schools, report violations to: http://www.FFRF.ORG/LEGAL/REPORT
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