Check out this picture:
That image of a bunch of kids running toward and kneeling in front of a giant Christian cross. It’s from an assembly that took place at Nichol Lawson Middle School in Sylacauga, Alabama on August 11.
Christopher Line, a legal fellow with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, says in a letter that the performance, called “BREAKTHROUGH,” included “religious music, bible verses, and prayer,” adding that the parent who tipped them off said “bibles were distributed to students as they entered the gym for the performance and that both the principal and vice principal were present for this event.”
A similar assembly took place days later at Sylacauga High School. And people on Facebook were quick to celebrate that mixture of church and state, too.
Even if these assemblies were optional, the big problem here is that they took place during the school day.
How do we know that (besides just taking the parent’s word for it)? Because people bragged about it online, as they always do.
Spirit & Company will be presenting their program “Breakthrough — Do Not Fear, Only Believe” Wednesday at Sylacauga High School at the 9:35 a.m. Fellowship of Christian Athletes/FOCUS Meeting..riding on the heels of last Friday at Nichols-Lawson Middle School. We are excited that doors are opening up for them to present their message!
These proselytizing assemblies are not only a violation of student and parental rights, they needlessly subject the school district to significant legal liability.
Furthermore, It is unconstitutional for public school districts to permit outsiders to distribute bibles as part of the public school day. Courts have uniformly held that the distribution of bibles to students at public schools during instructional time is prohibited.
A memo and training for employees spelling out the obligations of public school employees to uphold 65 years of Supreme Court precedent barring devotions, proselytizing and religious instruction in public schools is in order.
FFRF is asking for the district to explain in writing how they will address this issue so it never happens again. And it’s not even the only complaint FFRF has about the district. Just last month, attorney Sam Grover wrote to the superintendent because the Board of Education was opening all meetings with a prayer led by a board member. So this is a community that has a habit of sticking religion into places it doesn’t belong.
It’s just rarely this blatant.