VESTAVIA HILLS, Ala. — A prominent professing atheist group is taking issue with an Alabama teacher’s recent promotion of national “Bring Your Bible to School Day” to students by telling students about the event.
The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) says that it was contacted by a parent who advised that Patsy Smithey, a third grade teacher at Vestavia Hill Elementary East, had mentioned the event to students.
Smithey reportedly told the students that it was their choice whether or not they would like to participate and that they should ask for their parents’ permission. “Bring Your Bible to School Day,” observed nationwide on Oct. 6, simply entails students taking their Bibles with them to school.
But FFRF believes that Smithey should not have told students about the event, as they assert that doing so promotes religion and is therefore unconstitutional.
“It is unconstitutional for district staff to plan, promote or participate in religious events,” its letter to Superintendent Sheila Phillips, dated Oct. 2o, read. “When a district teacher promotes her personal religious beliefs to students, she violates not only the Constitution, but also parents’ trust.”
“The promotion of a Christian event alienates those non-Christian students, families, teachers, and members of the public whose religious beliefs are inconsistent with the message being promoted by the school, including the 35 percent of young Americans who are not religious,” it contended.
FFRF is requesting that the district investigate the matter and ensure that Smithey and others do not mention religious observations in the future.
“We request that the district investigate this situation and take action to ensure that Mrs. Smithey and its others staff members understand and respect their constitutional obligation to remain neutral toward religion while acting in their official capacity,” the organization wrote.
It is not yet known whether Phillips plans to respond.
As previously reported, in 1828, just 52 years after the nation’s founding, Noah Webster, known as the Father of American Scholarship and Education, wrote, “In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed. … No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.”
Webster, a schoolmaster, wrote the quote in his preface to the nation’s first dictionary, which often cited Christianity and the Bible.
123 of the first 126 colleges established in America were founded on Christian principles. Harvard University, named after Pastor John Harvard, held the motto “Truth for Christ and the Church.”
“Let every scholar be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life. Therefore, to lay Christ in the bottom as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning…” its student manual read.
Princeton’s motto was “Under God’s Power She Flourishes.” The first president of Princeton, Pastor Jonathan Dickinson, said, “Cursed be all learning that is contrary to the cross of Christ.”
Yale also wrote in its requirements in 1745, “All scholars shall live religious, godly and blameless lives according to the rules of God’s word, diligently reading the Scriptures…”