ACLU Charges Missouri Public School District with Allowing Improper Religious Activities in Classroom

Affiliate: ACLU of Kansas
May 1, 2003 12:00 am

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INDEPENDENCE, MO — Saying that a teacher here taught religious claims from the Bible as historical fact, the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri and Americans United for Separation of Church and State today filed a lawsuit against school district officials for allowing the teacher to promote improper religious activities in his history class.

“It is absolutely essential that government be neutral on matters of religion,” said Dick Kurtenbach, Executive Director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri. “Such neutrality benefits both government and religion.”

The lawsuit, Welk v. Independence School District, was filed on behalf of Truman High School student Ashley Heckman and her mother, Evelyn Welk, both residents of Independence. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, charges that teacher Chris Earley promoted Christianity in his classroom instruction and asserts that school officials with the Independence School District refused to take appropriate steps to stop the teacher’s actions. Heckman is a student in Earley’s tenth-grade world history class.

According to the legal complaint, Earley repeatedly advanced his personal religious views through his classroom instruction. He required Heckman and her classmates to take notes from a sermon that denounced evolution as a hoax and promoted instead the account of creation from the Book of Genesis, showed the movie “Jesus and His Times: The Story Begins” and treated religious claims from the Bible as historical fact, required students to complete worksheets based on Christian theological teachings and ignored curriculum guidelines requiring objective study about the five major world religions.

“It’s the job of parents, not public schools, to teach children religion,” said Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “The Constitution forbids public schools to promote Christianity or any other faith. Teachers may not abuse the public trust by pushing their personal religious agenda in the classroom.”

The copy of the complaint filed in this case is available on line at /node/35370

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