According to the school, the group is completely voluntary and is not an official after school group. The teacher running the group claims to all athletic department kids that it is a choice to join the group, not a force requirement of them. . . . Is that what they call religiously singling out non-believer students these days? o_O
Why is a teacher even bringing it into our school zone/environment in the first place?
It seems like another effortless way to smuggle Christian teachings into the public schools.
I'd really like to know if they are even allowed to do this. I have a worrying feeling that they can, because while government and schools will not endorse or promote religion, they "don't" prevent religious groups from their freedoms.
Isn't the fact that an official teacher working for a public school department that is leading this Christian group and it being announced in our public school bulletin in the mornings a clear violation of Church/State separation? Many of us Atheist students think so, but we don't know how to tackle this problem by ourselves.
This problem and the other conflict of the school allowing bibles and religious texts to be allowed in our school library. Religion is suppose to be taught by student's parents, not by the public school system.
Any suggestions. We have considered looking for legal documentation specifying on this what we think is a violation of church and state separation. Perhaps following with a letter concerning it to the school board.
What are your thoughts?
my understanding is that religious groups are allowed in schools as long as they receive no support from the school, that the group meets after school hours, and that none of the school's employees are involved. so basically it's a violation of church/state separation since this teacher is organizing and leading this thing. it would have to be after school hours, student organized, led, and run, while receiving zero support from the school or the school's employees.
check this out. specifically all the way at the bottom of the page. this sounds like a pretty clear violation to me from the information you've provided.
there's something called the Equal Access Act that provides for equal access for religious groups, the same access that secular non-religious groups get. but it's been interpreted as limited to after hours with no support from the school. the Supreme Court has upheld the act, in particular in Westside Board of Education v. Mergens. in that case a religious group wanted to meet after school and without school support of any kind and the school board rejected the request on establishment clause grounds. the students sued and won their right to have their unsponsored unsupported group held after school hours.
here's Wiki on the EAA
Okay. So now that I have realized that this is a violation because A teacher is leading this what should I do? Report it to the ACLU? I mean. Do I really have to make a case out of it, or will reporting it just allow them to take care it?
I was wondering what I would write to the school board if I had to, because they are--I know for a fact I should say that they are going to ask for a valid reason to why I would have anything against a group. They are going to use all the excuses Christians use in the handbook. I know that the teacher leading this group is well liked in the school, and will be defended by many people. A lot of students stick up for him and idolize him. Whatever I write in the letter is going to have to be very convincing. I know that they won't accept any reason, but I at least need something that is perfectly understandable and explains the reason of why something so harmless to them should not be allowed. I need something that will just shut them up and cause them to become speechless, because really, I want something in the letter that they can't contradict and complain about.
What was your stance on the school having bibles and religious texts like chicken noodle soup in our library btw?
see the thing is, it's not even about being opposed to the group or the people in the group as much as it's simply against the law. you let the little things have a pass and suddenly the little things are big things. you need to get Americans United or the ACLU to send the school a letter informing them that what they're doing is a violation of the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment to the Constitution. it isn't something we should be picking and choosing whether or not to report simply because it doesn't bother us personally.
you can try talking to the principle or even sending an email to the superintendent yourself but be aware that you'll almost certainly be found out to be the one that's complained and you'll face some "christian love" as a result. if you're ok with that then by all means, give it a shot.
i don't have a problem with the bible or chicken soup for the soul being in a school library provided alternative books are available as well. if only the bible and christian religious material is offered then, to my understanding, that too would be a violation inasmuch as it would favor one religion over another.
Your right. I think I have just associated people and groups with something I feel shouldn't be allowed. I agree. It shouldn't even be about whether I think something should be allowed or not.
I think its more over the fact that the bibles being in my school bothers me and I wasn't aware if they were allowed in our school and so that brought a red flag up in my mind.
And yah, this isn't the only cases that we have had. Some church has actually had their youth pastor go into our school as a substitute teacher. I'm don't think I ever saw him doing anything religious but I think I heard something about him just doing it to see what the public school kids are doing. I am really hoping we can take the site owner up on getting those bracelets because the Atheists in our school really lack a voice and we badly need a way of expressing ourselves in the school under all the religious pressure. Thanks for all the help Nelson. You made some really good points that I could use to make a letter to the school about. Your awesome. Really great advice and if you want to keep updates on it you can visit our forum for the people in our school.
i would check the library and see if there's a copy of the Quran and see if there are books on skepticism and atheism. if there aren't then ask why the Christian religion is being favored over anything else. you might ask ACLU and AU about the library as well as this group. see what they have to say.
it's no trouble at all. i'm happy to help you. the questions you're asking are important to ask. you have an opportunity to help uphold our constitution against those who are either ignorant of it or who know what they're doing is illegal but are counting on the ignorance of others or the unwillingness of others to do anything about it.
keep us posted on what ends up resulting from your contacting the ACLU and AU. i'm very interested.
I think that their religion section has a bunch of religions, mostly Wiccan, Christianity (a lot), some others......I did not see any Atheist, or freethinking books however...none. :( This raises a lot of questions for me. What does this mean for you? I can't check out section again...unfortunately. They already put all the books in boxes for the summer, but I think they have a library database.
I could definitely look on there. Do you think I have the right to request they put these books on shelf? I mean, I won't be there next year because I am graduating, but a lot of my other Atheist friends will be and future generations of other Atheist students will be too. I want to make sure their rights are being protected, and I have people in the school and connections through them that I could still work on these cases through them to change the school even when I'm gone.
i think as long as there are other religious books represented then they can't be seen to be favoring one religion over another. you might check the character of the other books though. if, for instance, the book on Wicca is really a polemic against Wicca from a Christian standpoint then that wouldn't pass muster.
but yeah, i don't think you'd be able to demand that they have atheistic books in addition to religious books. my understand of Establishment Clause law, such as it is, is that it's about favoring one religion over any other and not necessarily about favoring religion in general over no religion.
but that's another question for the experts at the ACLU and AU. they should know all that stuff handily.
what you and your friends should do is organize an atheist/agnostic/humanist student group at school. by law if the school allows other student groups to use the school property after school then they need to allow you guys to do the same. if they refuse because they object to atheism and atheists then they'd be in violation of the law. you'd just have to be very careful to make it plain that your group would be open to anyone, not just atheists/agnostics/freethinkers, any religious person would be allowed to join too. you'd need to keep things respectful. and you'd need to be about reducing the misunderstandings people have about freethinkers. if you can't do this then don't even try because if you do it and do it wrong you'll reflect poorly on all atheists and only end up affirming people's prejudices. but i think you can do it and you should talk to your friends about it who will still be at the school next year.