FFRF contests Ala. teacher’s inappropriate religious instruction czimmerman@ffrf.org (Casandra Zimmerman) News Release Archives – Freedom From Religion Foundation – Freedom From Religion Foundation

Read More News Release Archives – Freedom From Religion Foundation – Freedom From Religion Foundation The Freedom From Religion Foundation is attempting to educate the Lawrence County School District in Moulton, Ala., that it must stop a teacher from providing religious instruction to her students.  A concerned Moulton Elementary School parent reported to the national state/church watchdog that a first-grade teacher at their child’s school taught students about Jesus Christ and Easter and provided them with a religious coloring book page that depicted Jesus Christ and a bible verse, Mark 16:6, which says, “Jesus is alive.” The coloring book page appears to have come from a curriculum designed for Sunday Schools and intended for religious, not secular, purposes.  The Freedom From Religion Foundation has requested that the teacher no longer be allowed to teach students religious lessons, distribute religious materials to students, or otherwise indoctrinate students into a particular religious belief.  “The district must make certain that none of its employees are unlawfully and inappropriately indoctrinating students in religious matters by giving religious assignments, teaching about religion, or promoting their personal religious beliefs,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line has written to Superintendent Jon Bret Smith. “We ask that the district immediately investigate this situation and ensure that [the teacher] fully complies with the Establishment Clause and stops violating the rights of her students and their parents.” The Decatur Daily and several other area news organizations have already picked up on this developing story. The article shockingly reveals that Superintendent Smith does not plan to comply with the request: “From my point of view, an investigation is not warranted,” Smith said. “[The teacher] was teaching the course of study.” According to Objective No. 11 in Alabama’s first-grade course of study on social studies, teachers should “identify traditions and contributions of various cultures in the local community and state. Examples: Kwanzaa, Christmas, Hanukkah, Fourth of July, Cinco de Mayo.” “If Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are in there, so also is Easter,” Smith said. “No. 12 talks about religious beliefs. Easter is a religious belief. We’re covered with the course of study. We want to make sure classroom discussions are based on the course of study. We teach what has been approved by the state.” FFRF responds that Christmas is a national holiday, with pagan origins and many seasonal and secular accompaniments, while Easter, as a celebration of the supposed resurrection of the Christian deity, is not a federal holiday.  Line said that he suspects the teacher was seeking to indoctrinate the students, not educate them. “I highly doubt we will find out this was a neutral curriculum discussing religion,” Line explained. “It’s pretty clear here the teacher was using Easter as an excuse to convert children to Christianity. Line wonders if the teacher gave the students a Kwanzaa coloring book page as well. “Elementary school students should not feel excluded,” Line adds. “That is really why we do what we do. … If they want to violate the rights of students and push religion on the students, there’s always a possibility of future litigation. If the district’s position is it’s OK for teachers to push religion on to the students, that will always be a liability for the district.” Since FFRF sent its letter, an additional parent has come forward from the district informing FFRF that a couple of years ago, their child had also been given religious materials by their teacher containing bible verses. The parent informed FFRF that their family is not Christian, and doesn’t want Christianity (or any religion) being forced on their child at school: “I don’t force my beliefs on your family, please don’t force yours on mine. How is that a problem? So thank you, for bringing light to this issue and speaking up for those of us in the minority. Thank you so much! It really means the world to me!” “Public schools exist to educate, not to indoctrinate,” insists FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “This school district must take action to stop proselytization of a captive audience of 5- and 6-year-old students.” Read FFRF’s letter here.FFRF is a national nonprofit organization with more than 38,000 members across the country, including members in Alabama. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.