Florida schools tell students they’re God’s ‘own possession’ and promote Christianity: secular group
A secular group filed a complaint against a Florida school district that opens meetings with Christian prayers and allows teachers to promote religion to their students and colleagues.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter last week to the Levy County School Board asking for an investigation into several possible violations of the constitutional separation of church and state, reported The Gainesville Sun.
After investigating complaints starting in April, the group reported seven possible violations – including explicitly Christian invocations delivered by the superintendent or school board members.
Teachers also promoted and participated in religious events, including a baccalaureate service held at a Baptist church, with students.
One of those events, the Global Day of Prayer, lasted into school hours at Williston Elementary – where FFRF said teachers display religious-themed messages in their classroom, such as “God danced the day you were born” and “You are a gift of God. His own possession.”
One teacher at the school used her district-issued email account to send weekly Bible passages to other staff members, the investigation found.
Williston High School held its Advanced Placement testing at a local Methodist church, and the school promoted sports-related events at area churches.
An attorney from FFRF said the group received additional complaints after sending the letter, which noted that 30 percent of Florida adults are non-religious, Thursday to the school district.
The attorney said the group handles thousands of complaints a year, and most require little more action than notifying the proper officials – who frequently are unaware of potential violations.
“Here, the violations are so extensive (that) we’re a little less understanding and believe they probably knew a little bit more than other school districts that we deal with,” said attorney Andrew Seidel, of FFRF.
An attorney for the school district said he does not believe all the points in the letter are valid, but he said any violations would be corrected to comply with constitutional standards.