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?
You definitely have a case here if the group is organized by a teacher. Let me first say that there is not a brick wall between religion and school. Just because it has to do with religion does not mean it can't be in a school. Having the Bible and other Christian books in the library is not a problem in and of itself. Having religious groups in school (after hours) is fine. What is a problem is when teachers become involved, the school endorses any one group or religion at all, or some religions/belief systems are not allowed the same rights as others.
Let's start with this Christian group: it absolutely cannot be organized by a teacher. In fact, school faculty shouldn't be involved in the group at all. If they want to have a religious group outside of school that is not at all tied to the school, that's fine, but if they do this at school and the teacher gets involved or if the teacher were involved outside of school and was in any way representing the school then that would be a problem. I wouldn't see a problem with the Christian group putting up fliers or being announced in the school bulletin as long as all non-school groups receive the same treatment.
Things you can do: of course you can and should contact the ACLU. I'm sure they have a method down for alerting schools of these kinds of violations. If you're okay with tackling it yourself then by all means read up on the laws and share that info with the school administrators. I'd also look into the school's own written policies on this to see if they're upholding their own policies. Another thing you can do is send an anonymous letter along with information regarding the rules on religious school groups. Your best argument - it's simply not legal for the faculty to get involved in these groups. Religious groups have to meet after school hours for the same reason that faculty can't get involved - the school can't promote any religion.
As for the library, while there are a variety of religious books in the catalog, even re: Satanism, I did notice some interesting trends. There are a lot of books discussing the evolution/creationism debate, though I couldn't tell if any of them supported creationism. At least one school in your district has Michael Behe's tripe refuting evolution, but there was not a single book by Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, or Sam Harris. The few books by Richard Dawkins were strictly about biology. Ann Coulter, Joel Osteen, and Billy Graham, however, all have books represented in district libraries. I would include in any letter you send to the school administrators a list of the biggest books opposing religion that are out there - The God Delusion, God is Not Great, Letter to a Christian Nation, The Blind Watchmaker, etc. - as suggested acquisitions in order to provide a broader spectrum of books related to religion. While they aren't exactly promoting one religion over another, they are light on books related to non-religion and heavy on Christian books.
According to my sources at least, there is a teacher leading the support of this group. I have to confirm it. If it is true, note that I will look into these matters. As for the issue on the books. I am going to have my group that will still be in school next year fill a recommendation form out requesting those books that oppose religion. All students have access to this folder where students write down books they want to have the library buy. If for some reason, the library does not look into it, we will question why they did not review our selection and take them into consideration. The rest goes on from there.
Thats very interesting. They have a book refuting evolution but not a single one refuting creationism. Thats not at all surprising.