There are some violations of church/state separation in public schools that are ambiguous or accidental. And then there are the instances when an administrator thinks he’s being paid to be a priest.
In Texas, Prosper High School Principal Greg Wright has not only preached at a See You at the Pole event, he’s also single-handedly forming a Christian club. Neither is legal and both show a complete disregard for students to handle their own religious activities. Teachers at the school have also led religious clubs and at least one staffer has religious iconography hanging in her office.
Wright regularly leads students in prayers and preaches at [See You at the Pole] events… Apparently, he has been doing this for 21 years, but time does not cure constitutional violations.
What about the Christian club? Here’s what one parent wrote on Facebook:
[Wright is] beginning an organization for students called First Priority on October 7th and that will meet twice per month in the auditorium. They will sing, pray and praise. It’s like FCA, but some tend to believe FCA is centered more around athletes so Mr. Wright wants all students to feel welcomed at his First Priority meetings. He said this morning [that] Christian faith is an active faith. He’s encouraging students to be proactive and make their daily walk with Christ a priority. See You at the Flagpole was awesome!
Apparently, when asked why he was starting a second religious club, Mr. Wright did not deny he was doing so, but instead said that the teacher who had been running the previous club was retiring. Given these clear admissions, any claim that this is a genuine student-led club would be disingenuous.
What about the iconography?
We understand that PHS Assistant Principal Grant displays a Latin cross and a plaque about god in her office. The plaque reads: “God didn’t promise days without pain, laughter without sorry, nor sun without rain. But he did promise strength for the day.”
That these displays are in Grant’s office is immaterial. Students enter her office regularly and the displays are orientated towards those student visitors. Again, public school employees accept certain limitations on their free speech and free exercise rights as part of their governmental positions. Those limitations include not proselytizing students and not displaying religious iconography.
This is one of those examples that probably wouldn’t be a big deal on its own — Grant just needs to turn plaque around so only she can see it — but it’s indicative of a larger problem when included on a long list.
And just to blunt the inevitable criticism, FFRF is not trying to push God out of the school. Students are welcome to create and run their own Christian clubs. Teachers and administrators are only there to facilitate it all, not to run or participate in the groups.
They don’t teach you about church/state separation when you’re training to become a teacher, but administrators should be well-versed in what is and isn’t allowed. Wright should know by now that promoting religion while working as a principal is forbidden. If he can’t separate the two worlds, then he needs to find a job at a private religious school or a local church. He seems to be more interested in pushing Christianity onto students than properly educating them.