A Georgia school district is being urged to protect its students’ rights to religious expression after an atheist group filed a complaint over student-led prayers at its high school football games.
First Liberty Institute Special Counsel Jeremy Dys has called on Valdosta City Schools to “provide a clear policy that allows students to have an opportunity to say whatever they’d like to say ahead of their games.”
The legal firm, which exclusively defends religious liberty, recently sent a letter to William Cason, superintendent of Valdosta City Schools, explaining “the relevant law concerning such student religious expression” and recommending the adoption of “a model policy fully protecting student religious expression for Valdosta City Schools students.”
Dys explained to CP that a “Model Policy Governing Voluntary Religious Expression in Public Schools,” based on The Texas Student Religious Viewpoint Act, makes it the responsibility of every school official “to maximize the student religious liberty on campus and that includes the expressions of their religious viewpoints.” He mentioned that The Texas Student Religious Viewpoint Act, passed in 2007, has “never been challenged because … it really can’t be.”
Earlier this month on Oct. 14, the Freedom from Religion Foundation, an atheist group that advocates for the strict separation of church and state, sent a letter to Valdosta City Schools on behalf of a “concerned local resident” who complained that Valdosta High School began its Oct. 9 football game with a student-led prayer.
“It is illegal for a public school to sponsor religious messages at school athletic events,” FFRF staff attorney Christopher Line wrote.
FFRF cited several Supreme Court cases, including Lee v. Weisman, which ruled that prayers at public school graduations were “an impermissible establishment of religion,” and Engel v. Vitale, which found school prayer unconstitutional.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Ryan Foley