EVSC to refrain from organizing teacher-led religious clubs

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An Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation (EVSC) elementary school was convinced to refrain from holding a teacher-led religious club, according to the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FRFF).

FFRF said it sent a letter to the EVSC, after apparently finding out that Daniel Wertz Elementary was sponsoring a teacher-led religious club, the Fellowship of Christian Students.

In an email forwarded to FFRF in April, EVSC Chief of Staff Rick Cameron stated the club does not pay rental fees because it “is a faculty-sponsored club similar in form and function to a chess club, a soccer club, or the GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance).”

FFRF claimed that three employees were organizing and leading the group, but that they shouldn’t be because leading a religious club is in violation of the Establishment Clause in the US Constitution.

“It would be disingenuous to argue that the club is student-initiated or student-run, especially given the young age of the students at Daniel Wertz Elementary,” FFRF Staff Attorney Ryan Jayne wrote in a letter to the school district on May 11. “There is no doubt that the club’s organizers are acting in their official capacities as district representatives when they promote and lead this religious club.”

In a letter received July 31, legal counsel representing the EVSC told FFRF that “no school in the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation will have a teacher-led Christian students club in the academic year 2018-19 or thereafter.” Read the letter here.

In a press release, FFRF said it applauds the EVSC’s decision.

“Religion is inherently divisive and has no official place in a public school where staff and young students hold varied beliefs — and no belief at all,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “It is commendable that EVSC has affirmed its commitment to keep teacher-led clubs secular.”

The EVSC released this statement to Eyewitness News on Tuesday:

The Freedom from Religion Foundation has grossly misrepresented EVSC’s response with their recent statement, “The Freedom from Religion Foundation has convinced an Indiana elementary school to refrain from holding a teacher-led religious club.” 

“While we certainly understand the separation of church and state, the EVSC confirmed the right of students to express their religious beliefs in three separate communications with this organization. Understandably, adult supervision is an appropriate and necessary expectation whenever students gather in our schools.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization. The organization said in its press release that it “aims to protect the separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters related to nontheism.”

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(This story was originally published August 7, 2018)

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