The Fresno Unified School District in California has a special partnership with the local police station that involves a chaplain visiting the classrooms to form a special bond with the students. In fact, the District pays $65,000 a year to the Fresno Police Chaplaincy to bring people into the elementary schools.
One of the advertisements for potential chaplains in the Resilience in Student Education (RISE) program includes a Christian Cross with the message, “Ministry can’t always wait until Sunday.”
How is this legal? That’s what the Freedom From Religion Foundation wants to know.
FFRF Legal Fellow Chris Line has written to Fresno Unified School District Superintendent Robert Nelson detailing the unconstitutionality of this taxpayer-funded religious partnership.
“It is inappropriate and unconstitutional for the district to offer religious chaplains unique access to befriend students during the school day on school property,” Line writes. “No outside adults should be provided carte blanche access to minors — a captive audience — in a public school.”
It is well-settled law that public schools may not advance or promote religion, FFRF reminded the district. This program impermissibly allows religious officials unmediated access to young and impressionable students and creates a culture where Christian viewpoints are privileged within the school.
“The district must rectify this serious violation to protect the rights of conscience of these young students,” comments FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Using taxpayer money to fund faith-based training is unacceptable.”
It’s like D.A.R.E. except the police officers are bringing something harmful into the classroom.
The whole premise is for the kids to get to know and trust an adult outside their building who can serve as a mentor. That wouldn’t be a problem, except this program mandates that religion be tied into the relationship even if the chaplains aren’t preaching in the classroom. There are better ways for a public school district to find adult mentors for kids.