Ohio school district stands up to atheist group’s unfounded threats

ADF commends school for declining to censor educational character-building program
Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Attorney sound bite:  Rory Gray

NEWARK, Ohio – Alliance Defending Freedom sent Licking Valley School District a letter Friday supporting its decision to allow an assembly promoting character development for students to proceed despite receiving a complaint from an atheist group that sought to stop it. Freedom From Religion Foundation complained that the non-religious assembly should be halted because the presenters are Christian.

“Public schools should be commended when they decline to give in to unfounded threats by those who misunderstand the First Amendment,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “Licking Valley School District was right to reject Freedom From Religion Foundation’s false view that neutrality toward religion requires schools to reject beneficial programs simply because they are presented by Christians. That is not neutrality but targeted religious discrimination that the First Amendment forbids.”

“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 Jubilee Gang assembly based on the presenters’ religious identity would have clearly violated the Constitution, as well as the principles of individual liberty it was designed to protect.”

“The District invited Jubilee Gang to present a secular program promoting character development and good citizenship to kick off Licking Valley Intermediate School’s Renaissance Program, which rewards students for meeting certain behavioral and academic goals,” the ADF letter continues. “None of the information in the presentation was religious in nature and the program’s content was consistent with the school’s curriculum.”

“Attacking educational programs that provide children with non-religious character-building lessons just because the presenters happen to be Christian is shameful,” added ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Rory Gray. “We hope other school districts follow Licking Valley’s example and stand up to the illegitimate demands of anti-religious groups that distort the meaning of the First Amendment.”

ADF recently sent a letter to the Azle Independent School District in Texas encouraging it to restore a voluntary anti-bullying, anti-drugs, and character-building education program that district cancelled upon receiving an unfounded complaint from FFRF.

  • 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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