The New York Times Highlights ACLU's Religious Freedom Work in Public Schools

Contrary to what you might see elsewhere on the Internet, the ACLU is not trying to eliminate religion from public schools. Students are free to pray in class, at lunch, before a football game or anywhere else. We also stand up for students who wish to express their faith by wearing rosaries, yarmulkes, uncut hair  or anything else that outwardly signifies their devotion to a particular creed.

What is not permitted, and never has been, is allowing public school teachers and other officials to use the positions entrusted to them by the State and parents to impose their religious beliefs on students by officially sanctioning religious activities in public schools. School officials may not subject students to official prayer or proselytizing. This is clearly forbidden by the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.

Unfortunately, we've been receiving reports from concerned students and parents about schools around the country overstepping these boundaries by a wide margin, to the degree that some students feel like outsiders in their own school. One of the most recent, and egregious, examples is in Chesterfield County, South Carolina. The New York Times just published a piece on our work there. School officials in the Chesterfield County School District have hosted worship rallies during the school day featuring rappers who exhort students to give their lives to Christ. Preachers are invited to tell kids that they need a relationship to Jesus "more than anything else" to avoid drug addiction. Our client, an atheist student who complained about the rally and other aggressive activities to promote religion, was told he could skip the rally if he reported to the in-school suspension room.

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Telling non-believing students that they can opt out or not pray along is not an option. Here at the ACLU, we believe that the right to pray as you wish or believe what you want is a vital part of the American fabric. This promise of religious freedom means that religious education is the province of parents, families, and churches — not the government and not public schools. Public schools should provide a welcoming atmosphere for students of all beliefs. No student should have to feel as though they're being punished for not praying or believing the way a teacher wants them to.

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thank you for standing up for our religious freedom. I am always shocked and outraged at how far some people will go to force their views down others throats. At our local public school they include VERBAL Christian prayer into as many events as they can: football games, FFA meetings, school events like Veterans Day assemblies, just to name a few. I was raised Christian and have nothing wrong with any religion regardless of what my religious beliefs are but I DO believe this is very wrong. If they are going to have Christian rites in this or that then they need to start having all the other faiths in Rockdale ISD represented too. Everything from Islam, Paganism, Judaism, Hinduism, and Atheism. All or none. Thanks again for all you do to help protect our Constitutional rights in all things especially this matter.


Now, if they can just get the P.E. teacher to stop talking about MIRACLES.

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