Illinois school district bars students from announcing prayer gatherings on Facebook page

(Reuters/Jim Young)Safe Passage worker stands near a school bus in Chicago, Illinois.

Another U.S. public school caved into the demands of the prominent atheist group Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), which has been keeping an eye on state-owned educational institutions, making sure that they don't endorse any religion.

Following the receipt of a letter from FFRF, Wayne City Community Unit School District 100 in Illinois ordered that students at Wayne City High School should be prohibited from using the school's official Facebook page to invite schoolmates to prayer gatherings and religious events.

The subject of FFRF's letter is a student's post on the Wayne City High School's Facebook page encouraging students to bring their Bibles to school on Oct. 6 and to join a prayer meeting.

"We will be meeting in the in the library at 7:50 a.m. to pray over the day. Everybody is welcome to join in on this activity. We will be carrying our Bibles around school this day. This is not just a Wayne City school thing, it's happening Nation-wide," the post read.

After reportedly receiving a complaint from one local resident, FFRF attorney Ryan Jayne wrote to Jeff Mitchell, the school district's superintendent, stating that the Facebook post violated "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."

The letter demanded assurance that the school district employees would not participate in the Bible activity and prayer gathering and that the school district prohibits the use of its social media accounts for religious announcements moving forward. It also asked for the post in contention to be taken down from the school's Facebook page.

Mitchell replied on Dec. 27, assuring FFRF that the post had been deleted from the school's Facebook page and that those involved had been informed that such religious announcements are not allowed on any District sites. He asserted, however, that students have the right to bring Bibles to school.

The past few months witnessed the Atheist group threatening public schools with lawsuits over activities and practices that appear to constitute religious endorsement, arguing that such violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Oak Park Elementary School in Ocean Springs Mississippi is one those that had been targeted by the group. In August last year, the FFRF was triumphant in getting the school to cancel a planned back-to-school prayer service.

In September, the atheists prevailed in taking down a hallway mural of the Ten Commandments and a line from the Old Testament at O'Donnell High School in Texas.

Tipton R-VI School District in Missouri also let go of prayers and a religious hymn, which used to be staples in their school programs, after being called out by FFRF. The school also took down a giant portrait of Jesus Christ from the walls of its library.

On its website, FFRF describes itself as the largest organization of freethinkers, which it indicates to include agnostics and atheists, with 23,700 members in the United States. Founded in 1978, it endeavors to be a watchdog ensuring that religion and government remain separate.

Go to the Home Page

Top News

Inside Christian Times