New ACLU Campaign Targets Religion in Schools
|Posted: September-16-2012 at 1:38pm | IP Logged
The South Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has launched a campaign it claims is intended to “strengthen religious freedom” in the state’s public schools.
But the “Religious Freedom Goes to School” effort focuses almost entirely on what students and teachers can’t do in school, not what they can do to exercise their religious freedom, conservatives complain.
The ACLU chapter says in the last two years, it has received complaints that include “in-class prayer led by teachers, the distribution of Bibles to students, prayer and scriptural readings at graduation ceremonies and athletic events, coach-organized and coach-led prayer at football practices,” and “opening prayers at school board meetings.”
Such activities violate the Constitution, the ACLU asserts.
The ACLU of South Carolina says it “sent letters to all public schools in the state encouraging them to review their policies relating to religion and requesting information on these policies. In addition, an online survey is available for students, families or employees who wish to report possible religious freedom violations.”
An ACLU spokesman said the “Religious Freedom” campaign “aims to protect and strengthen the religious freedom rights of all students, regardless of faith or belief.”
But Erin Leu, a spokesperson for Liberty Institute, complained: “One thing I noticed about the campaign is that there is a heavy focus on what the school cannot do and there’s less of a focus on what the students can do for their religious rights.”
Chris Gacek of the Family Research Council told CNSNews.com that the ACLU “claims neutrality, but they want a state that’s secular and opposed to the inclusion of theistic messages.”
“I think it represents part of an ongoing process in various ways for organizations with left-wing ideologies to exert influence and control, to gain power over the way schools are administered.”
The Liberty Institute is trying to “stop the widespread assault” on religious freedom in public schools with the launch of its Angela Project, which includes the distribution of “Know Your Religious Rights” kits to students and parents.
In a statement issued before the new school year began, Liberty Institute warned: “In just a few weeks, some 45 million students across our nation will be going back to school. And that means new attacks on students' religious liberty from the ACLU, liberal judges and misinformed school and government officials.”
And the Institute seeks to “stop the systematic persecution of students of faith by first educating all involved — students, parents, teachers, principals, superintendents and school boards — as to what the law actually allows regarding the free exercise of religion.”
The Angela Project is named for Angela Hildenbrand, the valedictorian of her class at a high school in Castroville, Texas, who was told by a court that she could not say words such as “Lord” or “Amen” in her graduation speech prayer.
But an appeals court judge reversed that ruling and Angela was able to pray openly during her graduation speech.
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