A possible relocation of a Wisconsin charter school to a church has been prevented, thanks to the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
A concerned community member had contacted FFRF to report that the Tomorrow River School District was considering leasing St. James and St. Mary of Mount Carmel Church in Amherst, Wis., for Tomorrow River Community Charter School classes. FFRF strongly urged the board to select an alternative secular classroom space.
Holding school-sponsored events at churches is constitutionally suspect, particularly if the space includes religious iconography or other religious messages, or if the school district allows the church to take advantage of the event to recruit students, FFRF Staff Attorney Ryan Jayne reminded the school board. That’s why the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Wisconsin, struck down another school district’s use of a church for school functions."
FFRF’s letter strengthened the school district’s resolve not to allow the charter school to move into a church location.
“The board does not support leasing the church space and are looking at other options,” Tomorrow River School District School Board President Mark Kryshak informed FFRF in an email. “We are aware of all of the steps necessary to use that space and feel that those changes would be too involved to even consider using it.”
FFRF is glad that it nudged the school district in the right direction.
“It would have been an unwarranted imposition for families, particularly those from non-Christian backgrounds, to have to send their children on a daily basis into a church for their secular education,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “We’re more than happy that we were able guide a school district into making the correct decision.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a state/church watchdog based in Madison, Wis., has nearly 32,000 nonreligious members and several chapters all over the country, including almost 2,000 members and a chapter in Wisconsin.