The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has called on a school district in Georgia to prevent teachers and other officials from promoting Christianity to their students.
“School-aged children are a captive audience,” the group wrote in a letter to Houston County Schools. “They are young, impressionable, and vulnerable to social pressure, particularly pressure exerted from a position of authority. Religious education is not the province of the public schools — those who think otherwise should imagine the preceding violations as fostering Islam or Judaism instead of Christianity. Such instruction usurps the authority of parents.”
The FFRF first contacted the school district in June to protest prayers, sermonizing, and religious music at several high schools’ graduation ceremonies.
Since then, the organization said it had been contacted by eight separate families, who each reported additional alleged violations of the First Amendment. Alleged constitutional violations included prayers at school events, encouraging students to read the Christian Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye, Bible quotes on school walls and websites, and school mottos that endorse religious belief over nonbelief.
While students are generally free to practice their religion at public schools, federal courts have restricted officials from encouraging or participating in religious activities in school.
“It is clear that there is a systematic lack of adherence to and respect for the First Amendment in Houston County Schools,” the group said. “Extensive corrective measures, including training of all HCS employees and administrators on the proper boundaries of the Establishment Clause, are imperative.”
The school district has said it intends “to comply with the prevailing law in these matters.”
[Image via Flickr user Casey Lessard, Creative Commons licensed.]