The Northern Indiana Atheists group has a practice of “auditing” certain public events at local schools to make sure there’s no violation of church/state separation taking place. In September, they went to a “See You at the Pole” event at Elkhart Central High School to make sure only students were involved in the prayer circle.
And wouldn’t you know it… they caught a teacher in the circle along with the school’s resource officer. Their participation makes the event illegal, since it suggests a form of religious coercion by people on the payroll.
Right after the prayer was over, that officer, Cody Skipper, even hinted that he knew his participation broke the rules since you can hear him laughing as he says, “I don’t care about laws.”
“The law could not be more clear on this issue. Staff members are not permitted to lead or participate in religious activities with students,” said Geoffrey T. Blackwell, litigation counsel for American Atheists. “Parents entrust their children to public schools for their education, not for religious indoctrination.”
“Students have every right to voluntarily engage in prayers or other religious events, either individually or with fellow students, but school officials cannot lead, promote, or participate in those events,” added Blackwell.
AA also notes that, in 2013, the same District was accused of similar religious favoritism. At the time, the District told the Freedom From Religion Foundation that they would “continue in [their] efforts to meet those obligations.” Looks like that didn’t happen.
Give it up for the Indiana atheists for taking a proactive approach to catching these violations since they know their community is a hotbed for them. Sometimes, you need a whistleblower to alert groups and media outlets about what’s happening. Sometimes, all it takes is a watchdog who’s aware of when potential violations may occur.
(Thanks to Troy for the link)