What the hell is going on in Houston County School District (in Georgia)?
They’re not just guilty of one instance of pushing religion onto students. They’re guilty of it many times over and the Freedom From Religion Foundation has proof, courtesy of several local residents who wish to remain anonymous because of the death threats they are getting (including someone who suggested “sticking guns in your mouths and blowing the backs of your god damn heads off”).
It’s not surprising that the residents said administrators say prayers at graduations, assemblies, athletic events, and other celebrations.
But that’s not all.
Here’s what the FFRF found — with documentation (PDF):
- They pray at school council meetings. And when a secular invocation is offered, they just add on a prayer afterwards.
- The administrators encourage teachers to join prayer groups.
- The teachers boast about how they pray — teacher Susan Bray said on a website (using a Facebook comment plugin) that “we (the teachers) did hold hands and have a prayer around the kids. It was lovely.”
- Warner Robins High School (in the district) begins its school anthem as follows: “On the city’s eastern border, led by God’s great hand, Proudly stands our Alma Mater, dearest in the land.”
- Their high school summer reading list includes the fundamentalist Christian Left Behind series.
- The principal of Shirley Hills Elementary School (in the district) listed a Bible verse in her official biography (though she has since removed it).
- Warner Robins High School did not inform students that the baccalaureate graduation service, held at a local Baptist church, was optional.
- Tutoring services are offered… at local churches.
- The district will pay for student meals over the summer… including those at Vacation Bible School.
I didn’t get to every violation, either.
FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel investigated and independently corroborated most of the claims. The 13 enclosures and more than 30 pages of evidence make it “clear that there is a systemic lack of adherence to and respect for the First Amendment in Houston County Schools.” Seidel wrote, “Extensive corrective measures, including training of all HCS employees and administrators on the proper boundaries of the Establishment Clause, are imperative.”
I have no idea how the district plans to respond to these accusations, all of which are supported by pretty damning evidence. If they’re smart, they’ll just put a stop to all of this and save the local taxpayers a hell of a lot of money.
But when they make this many mistakes — presumably knowing it’s all against the law — something tells me they’re going to try and put up a fight. And lose miserably.
And the students are the ones who’ll suffer after the district has to pay for all the legal bills.