January 06, 2017
Illinois has one of the worst murder rates in the country, but a new report says that what the state's killing now is freedom. The bullies at Freedom from Religion Foundation are making sure of that, thanks to their usual scare tactics on religious expression. Unfortunately, not every school district has gotten the message that these atheists don't understand the Constitution -- a fact that's been proven over and over again in court. Knowing that most administrators don't want to deal with those long and costly lawsuits, FFRF has done an impressive job scaring off districts from allowing students to exercise their God-given rights, which are protected under the Constitution.
The latest example comes from Wayne City Community Unit's District 100 in Illinois, where officials have cowered in the face of FFRF's complaint and issued a blanket ban on students posting about prayer or religious event's on the school's Facebook page. When a group advertised their "Bring Your Bible to School Day," it triggered a threatening letter from the Foundation, claiming the practice somehow violated the Establishment Clause. "This Facebook posting violates the basic constitutional prohibition by creating the appearance that the school and, by extension, the district prefer religion to non-religion and Christianity to all other religions."
Superintendent Jeff Mitchell didn't bother investigating the claim and instead issued a knee-jerk memo promising to be more vigilant in cracking down on students' freedom. “[R]est assured that the posting was taken down very shortly after it was posted and the student as well as all others involved have been notified that they cannot promote this sort of program on any district sites." But here's the thing: the notice was posted by a student, which is very different than if a school official did. We don't know the full parameters of what the Facebook page was used for and how it functioned -- but assuming it was open to all types of announcements (religious and non-religious), and that the students posted directly or had an administrator whose job it was merely to receive their messages and post them -- they aren't infringing on church-state space, they're being infringed upon.
Like most cases, it looks like school officials were either ignorant of the law or failed to consult it. This is the perfect illustration of why school districts need to ensure that they're receiving proper legal advice (from places like First Liberty Institute, Alliance Defending Freedom, or others), and not just caving to the demands of the FFRF -- which is a militant atheist organization and not an objective legal source.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.