FFRF seeks investigation into Alabama teacher’s Easter-related lesson plan

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The superintendent defends the teacher

Mouton Primary School
Moulton Elementary School in Lawrence County, Alabama. |

A legal group that defends atheists, agnostics and non-theists is calling for an investigation into an Alabama teacher after she incorporated a coloring book image of Jesus along with a scripture passage into a lesson plan .

Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based nonprofit that advocates for strict separation of church and state, sent a letter to Lawrence County Schools Superintendent Jon Bret Smith on July 21 , expressing concern that a first grade teacher at Moulton Elementary School in the district “taught students about Jesus Christ and Easter, and also provided students with religious coloring book pages to take home.”

The coloring book page in question featured an image of Jesus Christ with the words “Jesus is alive” and included a reference to Mark 16:6, a biblical passage that discusses Jesus’ resurrection.

The FFRF letter to Smith follows a complaint from a concerned parent, who argued that the coloring book page was “not included in the classroom curriculum”.

FFRF staff attorney Christopher Line said the purpose of the letter was to “request the District to immediately investigate and ensure that [the teacher] and any other teachers in the district, no longer teach religion classes to students, distribute religious materials to students, or indoctrinate students in a particular religious belief.

“The district shall ensure that none of its employees unlawfully and inappropriately indoctrinates students on religious matters by giving religious assignments, teaching religion, or promoting their personal religious beliefs,” it said. he adds. “We are asking the District to immediately investigate this situation and ensure that [the teacher] fully upholds the Establishment Clause and ceases to violate the rights of its students and parents.

Line asked Smith, “Please respond in writing, outlining what steps the district will take to correct this serious constitutional violation so that we can notify our plaintiff.” He also insisted that “it is not a violation of teachers’ free speech rights when a school district regulates what they teach students while acting within their official duties.” .

The letter cited the 1987 U.S. Supreme Court case Edwards v. Aguillard noting that “[f]Families entrust public schools with the education of their children, but condition their trust on the condition that the classroom is not purposely used to promote religious views that may conflict with students’ private beliefs and their family.

“Using a religious holiday, Easter, as a pretext for teaching religion in a public school is unconstitutional,” Line argued. “If the district turns a blind eye to the overt proselytizing of [the teacher’s] in class, he becomes an accomplice to a flagrant violation of the Constitution and a breach of trust.

For his part, Smith maintains that the teacher did nothing wrong. In a statement to the Decatur Daily, Smith said, “In my view, an investigation is not warranted” because the teacher was “teaching from the curriculum.”

“Every teacher in the state of Alabama is responsible for teaching the curriculum thoroughly,” Smith said. “This is covered by two objectives in the freshman curriculum.”

Alabama Curriculum Outcome #11 for first-year social studies states that students will “identify the traditions and contributions of diverse cultures in the local community and state.” Specific examples of these “traditions and contributions” include Kwanzaa, Christmas, Hanukkah, Fourth of July, and Cinco De Mayo.

Referring to Goal #11, Smith said “if Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are in there, so is Easter.”

Goal #12 of the first-grade social studies curriculum states that students “will compare common and unique characteristics of social groups, including age, religious beliefs, ethnicity, people with disabilities, and equality between the sexes”.

Emphasizing that “No. 12 is about religious beliefs,” Smith identified Easter as an aspect of religious belief: “We are definitely covered in the curriculum. We want to make sure that class discussions are based on the curriculum. We teach what has been approved by the state.

The FFRF rejected the comparison between Easter and Christmas, describing Christmas as “a national holiday with pagan origins and many seasonal and secular accompaniments” in contrast to Easter, which it called a “celebration of the supposed resurrection of Christian divinity”. and “not a federal holiday.

FFRF officials believe that the teacher went beyond the school curriculum.

“Public schools exist to educate, not to indoctrinate,” FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor said in a statement. “The school district must take action to stop the proselytizing of a captive audience of 5- and 6-year-olds.”

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be contacted at: [email protected]

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