Florida School Has Serious Church/State Problems

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has sent a letter to the Levy County School Board in Florida over a number of alleged violations of the Establishment Clause that look pretty damn bad. My friend Andrew Seidel of FFRF calls it “a pretty extensive and severe set of problems” and it certainly is that.

Levy County School Board meetings begin with an invocation, or prayer, delivered by the superintendent or a school board member, which “generally invokes Jesus,” according to the letter.

Teachers have been promoting and participating in religious events with students, including promoting and participating in a Global Day of Prayer events at Williston Elementary School that started before school hours but ran into the normal school day.

Cedar Key School promoted a baccalaureate service, a Christian ceremony honoring a graduating class on its website. The service took place May 24 at Cedar Key Baptist Church.

Teachers at Williston Elementary display religious signs, plaques and calendars in their classrooms, which include messages such as “God danced the day you were born” and “You are a gift of God. His own possession.”

And they’ve received even more complaints from local residents since they sent out that letter, so it may get worse.

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  • Synfandel

    If there are more complaints, it may get better.

  • Die Anyway

    Levy County (pronounced lee-vee) is one of the more rural counties in Florida. The Big Bend area is still largely “old Florida” so this doesn’t surprise me at all.

  • wreck

    “God danced the day you were born”

    I’m intrigued. What kind of dance? A waltz, the watusi, mashed potato, break dance, interpretive dance? Does he dance like an Egyptian?

  • John Pieret

    From the article:

    Levy County Schools Superintendent Rob Hastings said he received the letter and is working with the district’s staff attorney to investigate the claims.

    “I do not think that all the points are valid, but we will certainly look into it and analyze it,” Hastings said. “We will do our best to make sure that our school board and our schools are following the Constitution and that we protect all our students’ rights.”

    Let’s hope that staff attorney isn’t so god-soaked that he can manage to give them correct advice. Oh, and Superintendent, you might want to check with the district’s insurance carrier as to what’s going to happen if it is sued.

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

    Simmer down. It’s Constitutional. It’s just Simple Ceremonial Deism, bereft of any meaning due to repetition, plus those prayers could be to any god.

  • Synfandel

    “You are a gift of God. His own possession.”

    If God gave you, how does he still own you?

  • Pierce R. Butler

    Oddly, adjoining Gilchrist County very recently cancelled a public workshop about a proposed 10 Commandments monument at the county courthouse; the county administrator told me that the sponsor of the monument project had apparently reconsidered, and may withdraw the whole idea.

  • eric

    God danced the day you were born”

    I’m not sure what offends me most, the constitutional violation or the shameless ripoff of a nice children’s book.

  • briandavis

    Did the baptists shun God after he was caught dancing?

  • Michael Heath

    Superintendent:

    We will do our best to make sure that our school board and our schools are following the Constitution and that we protect all our students’ rights.

    Another ignoramous who doesn’t understand rights.

    Supe: You have an obligation to infringe upon some students’ rights in some cases. I.e., as the government, you’re prohibited by allowing one of your Christianist students to pray to a captive audience of other students. In that case you have the obligation to protect the rights of the students in the audience over the rights of the Christianist students to leverage government power to proselytize their fellow peers.

    I could go on with more examples; the ignorance demonstrated here goes deep. And yet he’s a superintendent with easy access to easy-to-read guides on reporting his constitutional powers and limitations on those powers.

  • Die Anyway

    I did a search on Levy County School Board site for “christ” and came up with one hit… a misspelled reference to former governor Charlie Crist (ie. Charlie Christ). So at least they know enough to keep Christ out of their web site, if not out of the classroom.

  • Anna Elizabeth

    @ briandavis #9 – I just spit some coffee, thanx XD

  • deepak shetty

    @11 – Couple of hits for God

    http://www.levy.k12.fl.us/documents/sblc%20notebook/notebook.pdf

    Including

    “It is often said: God gave us 2 ears and 1 mouth; therefore, we should listen twice as much as we talk. God also gave us a brain which we use to think and to reason. Maybe, most impor-tantly, God gave us a heart to lead and love and have compas-sion: this is why TEACHERS—teach !

    I want to say a special “THANK YOU” to all of the dedicated people of Levy County who treasure our students.What a Blessing

    Robert O. Hastings,

    Superintendent

    not much hope here

  • sigurd jorsalfar

    I’m intrigued. What kind of dance? A waltz, the watusi, mashed potato, break dance, interpretive dance? Does he dance like an Egyptian?

    It depends when you were born, wreck. When I was born it was the lindy hop. These days I hear he mostly twerks.

  • Erp

    From a little fact checking:

    Levy County is small in population (40,801 [2010 census]) and as you can imagine the High Schools aren’t too big (apparently one current controversy is about how far some kids have to go to get to school). They don’t mention ‘evolution’ in their biology course descriptions (though “modern theories for the origin of life” for Honors Biology might cover it or for the AP course, “The purpose of this course is to provide an in-depth course of study in the biological sciences as outlined by the College Board”. Then from a school board minute from 2008:

    Jeff Edison presented the Science Standard revision proposed b y the State for Board review and discussion. He used a power point presentation to review what the current standards are for Science. He then distributed copies of the proposed revision which will require S cience teachers to teach evolution as the sol e fact , not just as theory and said the proposed revision has caused quite a stir. He said previously evolution was taught as theory – along with creationism, balancing the 2 views. He said he was personally incensed that the State would give teachers no choice in the matter. He said the Legislature would vote on February 19 th regarding the proposed revision. Mr. Norris shared a letter he had drafted opposing the revision as being against what our nation was founded upon , and invited the Board to sign the letter after which he would send to the Commissioner of Education and each Board Member of the State Board of Education . After discussion, Beth Davis moved and Billy Morrison seconded to send the letter opposing the proposed revised Science Stand ards. Motion carried

    No suggestion that there was any dissent.

  • Damien McLeod

    Criminal activity on the part of the school board, in support of ignorance and superstition, I can’t believe it. They’re doing their part to move forward the day when theocracy becomes the rule or law in America. To people like them, the separation of church and state is a sin against their sky-fairy, the founding fathers were fools, and trashing the constitution is a way of life.

  • Lady Mondegreen

    “You are a gift of God. His own possession.”

    What Synfandel said. If God gave me how can he still possess me?

    YOU CAN’T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS, GOD.

    And, uh, to whom did he he give me? I have a right to know!

    (I used to work alongside some people who kept Christian glurge signs and posters all over their office. The signage is illustrated with sunsets, seashores, cute baby animals, or the like.)