ALAMO, Tenn. — A school district in Tennessee has deleted a post encouraging residents to park at schools, administration buildings and bus lots and pray for officials and students alike after receiving a letter from the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF).
The atheist-led self-described Church-State separation group wrote to the Alamo City School District in August to advise that a complainant noted a post on the district’s Facebook account that encouraged prayer.
“Driving past a school? Pull in, park, and pray for our children, teachers, and staff! Driving past an administration building? Pull in, park and pray four our leaders! Driving past a bus lot? Pull in, park and pray for our bus drivers!” the graphic, shared on July 26, read in part.
FFRF asserted that the post violated the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by endorsing religion.
“It is well settled that public schools may not advance, prefer or promote religion,” the letter stated. “Advancing, preferring, and
promoting religion is exactly what a school district does when it posts religious messages on official public social media pages.”
“These religious messages give the appearance of district endorsement of religion over nonreligion and exert an exclusionary influence on many families,” it said.
FFRF asked that the district discontinue posting religious content on its social media pages and delete the July post encouraging residents to pray.
According to FFRF, Alamo Director of Schools Reecha Black has now responded via email, simply stating, “We have removed the post from our website. Thank you for letting us know.” The post no longer appears on the district’s Facebook page, Christian News Network has confirmed.
“It is hard to understand why a school district would urge strangers to drive into school parking lots or by buses, where small children may be present and traffic hazards abound, much less for the purpose of prayer,” FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said in a statement. “But sometimes, school districts don’t realize how alienating some of their messages can be.”
As previously reported, a number of schools have capitulated to the organization’s requests to remove religious references from school premises and/or from their official social media pages.
Earlier this year, Letcher County Schools in Kentucky had a stencil painted over in the football locker room at Letcher Central High School that read, “But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior. – Jeremiah 20:11.” It also removed a display on a bulletin board at Fleming Neon Middle School that read, “Jesus is my savior; you can’t scare me,” as well as a prayer posted to an elementary school Facebook page.
Last year, a Ten Commandments plaque at Welty Middle School in New Philadelphia, Ohio was removed after FFRF lodged a complaint, and a Scripture reference on a retaining wall at Desert Junior-Senior High School in North Edwards, California was painted over.
In 2018, Jarrettsville Elementary School in Maryland removed a plaque from its cafeteria that read “Give us this day our daily bread” and Wayne County High School in Waynesboro, Tennessee stopped allowing students to present prayers during the morning loudspeaker announcements after FFRF sent a letter to state that the “practice … is illegal.”
As previously reported, founding father Noah Webster, known as the Father of American Education, wrote just 36 years after the signing of the U.S. Constitution in his 1823 publication “Letters to a Young Man Commencing His Education”:
“Let it then be the first study of your early years to learn in what consists real worth or dignity of character. To ascertain this important point, consider the character and attributes of the Supreme Being. As God is the only perfect being in the universe, His character, consisting of all that is good and great, must be the model of all human excellence, and His laws must of course be the only rules of conduct by which His rational creatures can reach any portion of like excellence.”
Webster’s famous “Blue Back Speller” for students referenced Christianity, including God-centered statements in reading lessons such as “The preacher is to preach the gospel,” “Blasphemy is contemptuous treatment of God,” and “We do not like to see our own sins.”
Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and vice-president of the Bible Society of Philadelphia, said in expressing his disagreement with deists who were opposed to using the Bible in schools:
“In contemplating the political institutions of the United States, I lament that we waste so much time and money in punishing crimes, and take so little pains to prevent them. We profess to be republicans, and yet we neglect the only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government, that is, the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by means of the Bible, for this divine book, above all others, favors that equality among mankind, that respect for just laws, and all those sober and frugal virtues, which constitute the soul of republicanism.”