The Freedom From Religion Foundation has convinced an Indiana elementary school to refrain from holding a teacher-led religious club.
FFRF sent a letter to Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation (EVSC) after it was brought to FFRF’s attention that Daniel Wertz Elementary School was sponsoring the Fellowship of Christian Students — a teacher-led religious club aimed at students. In an email forwarded to FFRF in April, EVSC Chief of Staff Rick Cameron stated that the club does not pay rental fees because it “is a faculty-sponsored club similar in form and function to a chess club, a soccer club, or the GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance.)”
FFRF asserted that the three district employees organizing and leading have no business exploiting their official capacity as district representatives to lead this religious club as it is in violation of the Establishment Clause. Even when religious clubs are permissible, it is inappropriate and unconstitutional for district staff to lead or organize a student religious club, or to otherwise suggest that the district sponsors the club and, thus, its religious mission.
“It would be disingenuous to argue that the club is student-initiated or student-run, especially given the young age of the students at Daniel Wertz Elementary,” FFRF Staff Attorney Ryan Jayne wrote in a letter to the school district on May 11. “There is no doubt that the club’s organizers are acting in their official capacities as district representatives when they promote and lead this religious club.”
In a letter received July 31, the legal counsel representing EVSC informed FFRF that “no school in Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation will have a teacher-led Christian students club in the academic year 2018-19 or thereafter.”
FFRF applauds EVSC for upholding its obligation to preserve the constitutional rights of their students by keeping religious influence out of the sphere of public education.
“Religion is inherently divisive and has no official place in a public school where staff and young students hold varied beliefs — and no belief at all,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “It is commendable that EVSC has affirmed its commitment to keep teacher-led clubs secular.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 33,000 members, including over 400 in Indiana. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters related to nontheism.