Federal Judge Says Consent Decree In ACLU Lawsuit Constitutionally Protects Religious Freedom

February 19, 2010

Christian Educators Association Had Sought To Invalidate Settlement Prohibiting Florida School Officials From Promoting Personal Religious Beliefs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org
     Brandon Hensler, ACLU of Florida, (786) 363-2737; media@aclufl.org

PENSACOLA, Florida – A federal judge today barred a Christian educators association from seeking to overturn a consent decree requiring school officials in Santa Rosa County, Florida to stop promoting their personal religious beliefs in public schools.

In a carefully crafted 35-page decision, U.S. District Court Judge M. Casey Rodgers reiterated that school district officials are constitutionally obligated to ensure that teachers and other staff do not inculcate public school students with religion and that the Christian Educators Association International had no valid basis for seeking to have the consent decree ruled unconstitutional.

The consent decree is the result of a lawsuit filed in 2008 by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Florida on behalf of two Pace High School students who alleged that school officials regularly promoted religion and led prayers at school events. Among other things, it prohibits school officials from proselytizing, promoting or endorsing prayers during school functions and organizing school-sponsored religious services.

The following can be attributed to Benjamin Stevenson, staff attorney with the ACLU of Florida:

“The consent decree was clearly constitutional and designed to stop school officials' admitted practice of promoting their personal religious beliefs. The judge's decision affirms that no one is prevented from doing anything they should be allowed to do. Hopefully, school officials can now return their focus to educating students.”

The following can be attributed to Daniel Mach, Litigation Director for the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief:

“Today's decision safeguards religious freedom for all in the Santa Rosa County schools. As the court concluded, the consent decree appropriately protects both aspects of the fundamental religious liberty enshrined in the Constitution: the right to exercise one's faith and the right to be free from government-imposed religion.”

A copy of the decision is available online at: www.aclu.org/religion-belief/doe-v-school-board-santa-rosa-county-florida-et-al-order-denying-motion-intervene

A copy of the consent decree is available online at: www.aclu.org/religion-belief/doe-v-school-board-santa-rosa-county-florida-et-al-consent-decree-and-order

Additional information about the ACLU Program on Freedom of Belief is available online at: www.aclu.org/religion

Additional information about the ACLU of Florida is available online at: www.aclufl.org

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