July 17, 2017
Graduation may be too late to expel students, but it's never too late to expel faith! That's what Indiana's Elkhart Community Schools have decided after a toothless threat from the activists at the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF). After a single complaint, FFRF fired off a typical letter to Elkhart administrators, warning that there'd be consequences if the district didn't stop the practice of prayers at graduation. Desperate to avoid a controversy, District Counsel Chief of Staff Douglas Thorne capitulated almost immediately.
In a statement, he groveled to FFRF, vowing to stop students from invoking God at the year-end ceremonies. "The Elkhart Community Schools understand our obligation to maintain a status of neutrality on matters related to religious belief, and to avoid actions which might be construed as endorsement of any particular religious beliefs. Our obligation to maintain a status of religious neutrality is communicated to our staff at all levels on a regular basis."
Not only did Thorne fail to consult the Constitution, he forgot to check state law! Just this month, a law went into effect in Indiana that gives students the same rights the school is now denying. Thanks to Governor Eric Holcomb (R) and the state's legislators, Indiana is putting the cross back in the Crossroads of America. Under the new statute, "public school students may pray or engage in religious activities or religious expression before, during, and after the school day in the same manner to the same extent that students may engage in nonreligious activities or expression."
As most legislators said at the time, the law only served to protect the rights that children already had. Even Democrats like state Rep. John Bartlett sponsored the bill, insisting that they wanted to give inner-city kids "the hope of God" at a time when gangs and crime are at an all-time high. "My intent was to give our children an opportunity to pray -- not make it mandatory," he told the idea's few critics. Tired of the lawsuits and wasted court time, both parties put their support behind the measure, which sailed through the legislature.
Unfortunately, word of the law must not have filtered down to districts like Elkhart, where school officials are still eager to surrender to the Left's faith-hostile demands. "This was a statement legislators wanted to make," one leader said of the bill. It's time Indiana's administrators heeded it.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.