FFRF of Georgia

FFRF revisits proselytizing Ky. school

Written on 10/08/2019
Bailey Nachreiner-Mackesey

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is again urging a Kentucky district to correct numerous constitutional violations in its school after successfully having a religious advertisement removed from the district’s Facebook page last month.

A community member had reported to FFRF that Tyner Elementary School in London, Ky. was advertising a program sponsored by a local church on its website and Facebook page. The district promptly obliged with FFRF’s request to remove the religious endorsements.

A few weeks later, a concerned district parent contacted FFRF about two additional constitutional violations occurring in Jackson County Public Schools. First, the parent reported that Jackson County High School contains at least two displays of the Ten Commandments, one in the entryway to the school auditorium and another in a classroom. The parent also reported that the school allowed Jon Isaacs, a pastor with a local Baptist church, special access to the Jackson County High School football team, allowing him to lead the team in a pre-scrimmage devotional.

The district violates the constitutional principle of separation of state and church when it allows its schools to display religious signs, FFRF reminds the district. Courts have continually held that school districts may not display religious iconography in public schools. It is similarly inappropriate and unconstitutional for the district to offer religious leaders unique access to befriend and proselytize students during the school day on school property.

“No outside adults should be provided carte blanche access to minors — a captive audience — in a public school,” FFRF Legal Fellow Dante Harootunian writes in his letter to the district’s attorney. “The district cannot allow its schools to be used as recruiting grounds for churches.”

FFRF requests that the district remove the Ten Commandment displays and abstain from allowing religious leaders to use school-sponsored activities to proselytize to students.

“Not only does this religious promotion raise serious constitutional concerns, it is inherently divisive and exclusionary,” comments FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Subjecting students of any religion or no religion at all to this dogma in schools is completely inappropriate.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 30,000 members and several chapters across the country, including hundreds of members and a chapter in Kentucky. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between church and state, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.