AHA Settles With MO School Over Church/State Violations

The American Humanist Association’s Apignini Legal Center has reached a settlement with with the public school system in Fayette, Missouri over a range of clear violations of the Establishment Clause in favoring Christians groups. The group issued a press release on the substance of the consent decree:

The public school district showed unconstitutional favoritism toward Christianity in several ways. The school announced weekly prayer meetings over its intercom system and allowed a Christian student group to meet before the start of classes, unlike other clubs. The suit also alleged that the Christian club’s faculty sponsor prayed with students and displayed personal, religious materials in the classroom.

“Public schools must uphold the separation of church and state,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “To do otherwise is to disregard the rights of all students, including atheist and humanist children who are good without a god.”

“The school was violating the Establishment Clause in numerous ways – by promoting prayer meetings, giving privileges to the Christian club, and inappropriately allowing the teacher to participate in the club’s activities,” said David Niose, legal director of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “With this settlement, all of the problems are adequately addressed.”

In the consent decree agreed upon by the parties, the school is permanently enjoined from promoting prayer and religious activity, and religious clubs will be given no special privileges that other clubs do not enjoy. The school district also agreed to amend its announcement policies so that they will not identify any religious activities taking place at student group meetings. Also, faculty sponsors of student groups will not be permitted to participate in religious activities of the groups. School employees will also no longer be allowed to keep religious materials in places in open view.

“We are pleased that the school has chosen to move forward with policies that will respect the constitutional rights of all students,” Niose said.

You can read the full consent decree here.

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  • moarscienceplz

    Oh my! Yet another vicious attack on the tiny, oppressed minority of Christians in America! Will they ever be free of the threat of being thrown to the lions every time they give the tiniest acknowledgement to their faith? it’s just not fair! *stomp* *stomp* *stomp*

    There! Now I’ve saved the good citizens of Fayette, Missouri the trouble of replying to this.

  • vereverum

    How can anybody, at this stage of the game, not know the rules for schools? I am leaning to an hypothesis that an administrator getting a bunch of fundamentalist flak accedes to it and, after the inevitable court ruling, deflects the flak with “It’s not me; it’s the courts; argue with them” so he can get on with his job of administering the school.

    BTW, I used to read you 6 or 7 years ago on ScienceBlogs, then was off the radar for a few years but am now back. What happened to all those commenters? I saw Raging Bee a week or so ago on another blog somewhere but none of the others. Were they all taken away by the black helicopters?

  • anubisprime

    And when all the hoo haa is over and they think the world is looking the other way….some things sneak back to where they were!

  • Chiroptera

    Also, faculty sponsors of student groups will not be permitted to participate in religious activities of the groups.

    I don’t understand this one. If a faculty member were to sponsor the chess club, would she not be allowed to play chess with the members?

    Not that I disagree with it; I’m wondering it is marking a religious club as different from the others?

  • John Pieret

    And the school district or its insurance company pays $41,000 directly to the AHA’s attorneys. Either it is $41,000 out of the students’ educations or the amount the school district will pay in increased premiums over the next several years. Either way the kids are, as always, the losers in cases like this.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Now, look, they didn’t give the Christian club “special” privileges that they didn’t give the other clubs. All clubs could pray to Our Lord and hand out literature about Him.

  • vereverum

    @ Chiroptera #4

    Probably not. I read it to mean that a faculty sponsor is to provide legitimacy and perhaps adult supervision to the student club. And as it is a student club, the sponsor does not take part in the activities even if it is just playing chess.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    vereverum “And as it is a student club, the sponsor does not take part in the activities even if it is just playing chess.”

    The first rule of Chess Club is: You do not talk about Chess Club. The second rule of Chess Club is: You do not talk about Chess Club. Third rule of Chess Club: Someone topples their King, goes limp, or taps out, the game is over. Fourth rule: only two guys to a game. Fifth rule: one game at a time, fellas. Sixth rule: no shirts, no shoes. Seventh rule: Games will go on as long as they have to. And the eighth and final rule: If this is your first night at Chess Club, you have to play.

  • dogmeat

    I don’t understand this one. If a faculty member were to sponsor the chess club, would she not be allowed to play chess with the members?

    Not that I disagree with it; I’m wondering it is marking a religious club as different from the others?

    The idea behind a club sponsor is that we provide a liaison between the club and the school. Depending on the school, the sponsor would be the one who submits receipts to the bookstore, provides announcements to whomever is in charge of them, submits the club charter/constitution to the student council, etc. Overall the idea is to let the kids run their organization. In some clubs, your example of chess club, the sponsor playing as well wouldn’t be a big deal. Others, the risk is that the club becomes influenced by the teacher. In the case of religious clubs, we’ve seen them become a teacher’s private bible study (Freshwater), or come to focus on their interpretation of the bible rather than an inclusive club, etc. At our school the African American Culture Club fizzled out because the kids who were most driven graduated and hadn’t done a very good job recruiting new members. The club sponsor, rightly, let the club go when the kids decided they didn’t want to do it anymore.

  • magistramarla

    Here in Texas, the teachers did all of those things. There were prayer groups that met before and after school, in classrooms, in the gym and at the flag pole. The xtian athlete’s group meeting was announced over the PA every week. There were prayer groups for teachers, and I was snubbed for never attending one. Many of my colleagues had religious symbols displayed prominently in their classrooms. There were chain prayers that were often begun and sent out by the principal’s or the head counselor’s secretaries, so we didn’t dare report the flagrant misuse of the district e-mail to IT.

    As the mentor for the GSA group, I was strictly warned by the AP to never participate in or lead a meeting, or my job could be in jeopardy. Double standards much?

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    dogmeat “At our school the African American Culture Club fizzled out because the kids who were most driven graduated and hadn’t done a very good job recruiting new members.”

    Plus their version of Karma Chameleon wasn’t very good.

     

    magistramarla “Here in Texas, the teachers did all of those things. There were prayer groups that met before and after school, in classrooms, in the gym and at the flag pole. The xtian athlete’s group meeting was announced over the PA every week. There were prayer groups for teachers, and I was snubbed for never attending one. Many of my colleagues had religious symbols displayed prominently in their classrooms. There were chain prayers that were often begun and sent out by the principal’s or the head counselor’s secretaries, so we didn’t dare report the flagrant misuse of the district e-mail to IT. As the mentor for the GSA group, I was strictly warned by the AP to never participate in or lead a meeting, or my job could be in jeopardy. Double standards much?”

    No. The former stuff is Tradition (formerly Simple Ceremonial Deism), while the second has icky Gayhomos.

  • gog

    @John Pieret

    I think many insurance companies have refused to cover the costs in cases where the school was knowingly in violation of the law and refused to take corrective action before getting sued.

  • DonDueed

    Also, faculty sponsors of student groups will not be permitted to participate in religious activities of the groups.

    I don’t understand this one. If a faculty member were to sponsor the chess club, would she not be allowed to play chess with the members?

    Did you miss the part where it says the sponsor can’t take part in the religious activities of the group? In most worldviews, playing chess is not a religious activity.