FFRF admonishes Ga. school’s ‘Holy Spirit’ at Easter

1WalkerCountySchools

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is castigating a Georgia public school for getting religiously carried away during Easter.

Rossville Elementary School in Rossville, Ga., reportedly allowed representatives from Peavine Baptist Church to enter the school to hand out candy to students and invite them to attend their church. A video that Peavine Baptist Church posted on its Facebook page shows a church representative and someone dressed as the Easter Bunny passing out candy to students and hugging them. In the video, the church representative says, “We’re here at Rossville Elementary School…We’re gonna be giving out candy to kids today, and also inviting people to church.” The “Easter Bunny” is also wearing a shirt that promotes the church.

It is inappropriate and unconstitutional for the district to offer religious leaders unique access to befriend and proselytize students during the school day on school property, FFRF emphasizes.

“Allowing church representatives access during school hours to proselytize and recruit students for religious activities is a violation of the Establishment Clause,” FFRF Legal Fellow Chris Line writes to Walker Schools Superintendent Damon Raines. “The courts have protected public school students from overreaching outsiders in similar situations. Courts have granted injunctions against schools for their complacency in such situations.” 

The school district’s conduct demonstrates an unlawful preference not only for religion over nonreligion, but also Christianity over all other faiths, FFRF points out. Public schools have a constitutional obligation to remain neutral toward religion. When a school allows church representatives to recruit students for the church, it has unconstitutionally entangled itself with a religious message — in this case, a Christian message. This practice alienates those non-Christian students, teachers, and parents whose religious beliefs are inconsistent with the message being disseminated by the school.

There’s an additional problem here, FFRF underlines. These adults were allowed into the school to interact with students without parental knowledge or consent. This incident usurped the authority of parents, some of whom surely do not want their children approached by religious leaders at their child’s public school.

FFRF is urging the district to immediately discontinue Peavine Baptist Church’s access to students during school.

“Churches can’t be allowed to use the garb of secular celebrations to spread a sectarian religious message to a captive audience of very young and impressionable schoolkids,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “These religious intruders need to be shooed away by officials charged with the care and education of our children.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with 32,000 members and 20 chapters across the country, including more than 500 members and a chapter in Georgia. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

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