Tide turns toward Constitution in Alabama

FFRF’s legal team was successful in getting four Alabama school districts to end state/church violations recently.

In the Jefferson County School District, a concerned parent reported that Gideons were allowed inside McAdory Elementary School to hand out bibles to students. The complainant’s child was given a bible as the children left P.E. class by men who had set up a table in the hallway. Another parent reported that Grantswood Community School had put up a religious display in one of its classrooms. The display read, “He is the reason,” an obvious reference to Jesus given the context of a holiday display. This religious message was also posted on the school’s Facebook page.

FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line wrote to the district’s attorney, asking the district to cease allowing outside adults into its schools to distribute bibles to students and to remove the religious display from its property and social media page. The Jefferson County Schools’ attorney informed FFRF in a letter of response that both of these requests have been met by the district.

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Coaches in the Hartselle City School District are no longer  leading prayers with students after FFRF got involved.

A district parent alerted FFRF that Hartselle High School’s football coach had been leading his team in prayer. At the end of each team workout, the coach reportedly directed the team to get on their knees and then led them in a Christian prayer. After the prayer, players were allowed to leave.

FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line wrote to Superintendent Danna Jones, asking the district to investigate this routine and take immediate action to stop any and all school-led prayer at district athletic events.

In a letter of response, the district’s attorney informed FFRF that he has discussed the coach-led prayers with the superintendent and school officials and that staff has been “advised to discontinue any such practice.”

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The Morgan County School District has indicated it is not moving forward with a planned bible class partnership, thanks to FFRF’s intervention.

FFRF was alerted to a potential partnership between Morgan County Schools and Piedmont International University, which would establish a bible class for the district.

FFRF Staff Attorney Ryan Jayne wrote to the district’s attorney, pointing out several constitutional concerns with this pending arrangement. First, Jayne wrote, Piedmont University professors are experts in training Christian ministers, not teaching secular history. Additionally, Piedmont discriminates in its hiring based on religion and is flagrantly anti-LGBTQ. The university’s handbook states that homosexuality is a “sinful perversion” and that “God disapproves of and forbids any attempt to alter one’s gender by surgery or appearance.”

FFRF was informed that the district has no plans to move forward with this dual enrollment program.

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In Prattville, concerns regarding staff involvement in an Autauga County School District religious event have been addressed by administration.

A local resident reported that Daniel Pratt Elementary School organized and promoted a “See You at the Pole” event last fall. The school’s principal reportedly led students in prayer.

FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line alerted the school’s attorney to this violation and urged the district to ensure that no staff member plans, promotes or participates in any future “See You at the Pole” events.

The principal involved “acknowledges she was caught off guard” when asked to pray by the students and “should not have been a participant in the event.” The school’s attorney further informs FFRF the principal “has been counseled on her role as principal and board employee at ‘See You at the Pole’ and similar events.”