Atheists sink voluntary anti-bullying, anti-drugs education program in Texas schools

District’s capitulation, targeted exclusion of people of faith constitutionally problematic
Thursday, November 06, 2014

Attorney sound bites:  Jeremy Tedesco  |  Rory Gray

AZLE, Texas – Alliance Defending Freedom sent Azle Independent School District a letter Tuesday after it canceled a voluntary anti-bullying, anti-drugs, and character-building education program upon receiving a complaint from an atheist group. Freedom From Religion Foundation complained that the presenters of “Seven At Schools” belong to a Christian ministry.

“Public schools should be commended for offering character-building education programs to students, not intimated into engaging in unconstitutional discrimination,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “Freedom From Religion Foundation is incorrect that neutrality toward religion requires schools to discriminate against beneficial programs simply because they are presented by Christians. That is not neutrality but targeted religious discrimination forbidden by the First Amendment.”

“By advocating for the exclusion of people of faith from public life and – in particular – any participation in public schools, FFRF demonstrates that its demands are not based on law but on a blatant hostility to religion that directly conflicts with the First Amendment’s protection of religious free exercise,” the ADF letter explains. “Canceling the Seven At Schools assembly based on the presenters’ religious identity clearly violated the Constitution, as well as the principles of individual liberty it was designed to protect.”

“The District has taken no actions that promote religion,” the letter continues. “It simply planned to offer the Seven At Schools assembly as an optional opportunity for students to receive anti-bullying, anti-drugs, and character-building training. This program furthered the District’s curriculum and was only available to students whose parents had consented to their attendance.”

“It’s shameful for groups like Freedom From Religion Foundation to attack educational programs that provide children with character-building lessons,” added ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Rory Gray. “We hope Azle Independent School District will reconsider its decision and stand up to the illegitimate demands made by secularist groups who distort the meaning of the First Amendment.”
  • Pronunciation guide: Tedesco (Tuh-DESS’-koh)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

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