When it comes to announcements over the intercoms at public schools, you expect administrators to talk about things like upcoming events and club meetings. They’re specifically not allowed to promote religious events. Saying there’s a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting after school is okay since that’s a student-led club, but encouraging students to bring their Bibles to school is not.
Guess what they did in Biloxi, Mississippi?
Administrators at both Biloxi Junior High and Biloxi High in Biloxi, Miss., have reportedly been promoting religious events over the schools’ public address systems. At Biloxi High School there was a broadcast announcement reminding students to participate in a “See You at the Pole” event (a Christian-oriented prayer rally organized each year) taking place on school property. At Biloxi Junior High, Principal Scott Powell announced over the loudspeakers on Oct. 4 and 5 that students “shouldn’t forget to bring their bibles to school on October 6th” for “Bring Your Bible to School Day,” a privately organized, nonschool religious event. There was no disclaimer that the school was not endorsing the occasion. Private events are not generally advertised over the intercom.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to Biloxi Public Schools Superintendent Arthur McMillan this week reminding them that these kinds of promotions are illegal:
The district has an obligation under the law to make certain that “subsidized teachers do not inculcate religion,” FFRF asserts, quoting the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark Lemon v. Kurtzman case. When district staff members promote their personal religious beliefs, they violate not only the Constitution, but also the trust of parents.
“Public school employees should live up to their responsibility to remain steadfastly neutral in matters of religion,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The fact that there are so many violations happening in a single school district is alarming.”
The District says its investigating the situation, though there’s not much to investigate. Unless FFRF is lying (which they aren’t), the District needs to assure FFRF and its own community that Christianity will not be promoted by the schools. The administrators also need to apologize for their actions. At some point, ignorance on these issues needs to stop being an excuse.
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