When fliers surfaced announcing a “Worship Service” in which all are welcome, atheists demanded that the school immediately cancel the event for “violating the separation of church and state.” However, as soon as the superintendent received their complaint, he had just one thing to say.
When it was announced that there would be an open-to-the-public “Back to School Worship Service” at Fyffe High School in Alabama, many were surprised that the event outraged an atheist group. Still, despite the infinite problems associated with public schooling, this is the hill upon which the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has chosen to die.
DeKalb County Schools received a letter threatening legal repercussions if the worship service took place. The Freedom From Religion Foundation demanded that the event be canceled, claiming that it violated the Constitution and would be “inappropriately indoctrinating students.”
“We write to ensure that DeKalb County Schools does not allow its employees to organize or participate in religious events while acting as district representatives,” the letter reads. “Organizing and promoting religious worship events unconstitutionally entangles school personnel with an exclusively religious — often exclusively Christian — message. Public school teachers and administrators may not lead, direct, or ask students to engage in prayer or otherwise endorse religion.”
Due to the serious legal implications and the group’s instance upon an internal investigation into the matter, Superintendent Jason Barnett was tasked with replying back to the FFRF’s demand. Incredibly, what he wrote in response to the atheist group was a message that no one expected.
Without flinching, Superintendent Barnett informed the FFRF that the school district would not be intimidated into canceling the event and that it didn’t violate the Constitution or the law because no faculty or personnel were involved in putting together the service. He explained that the FFRF failed to do its research in that the service was organized by community members who went through the proper channels to secure the school gym for their event, according to FOX News.
“To my knowledge, no administrators or faculty members were involved in the organization and planning of the event. I want to add that the board did not promote this event, but rather permitted an announcement of the event on the school Facebook page just as it permits others to provide information about community events,” Barnett noted. “The ‘us’ in the Facebook announcement refers to the organizers of the event, not the school or the school board.”
The atheist organization’s threatening letter not only failed to prevent the event from taking place but also boosted the attendance. Because of the attention from the FFRF, what would’ve been just another small prayer session attracted more than 350 people, which far surpassed that of the gatherings from previous years.
What the atheist organization was attempting to thwart was a heartfelt prayer for all of the schoolchildren’s success and safety. In the wake of several mass shootings across the nation, pastors and community members prayed for peace and security as well as for the comfort of those who had lost loved ones.
“It’s a scary world, that’s why we are praying for God’s protection over our schools,” Jon Mayes, Guest Baptist Church pastor and parent, told WAAY TV. “Anytime you have kids and they’re not with you and they’re in the school system you worry about. Are they safe?”
As such, Superintendent Barnett was confident that the school hadn’t broken any laws and would be safe from legal repercussions. He explained that the event was carried out within the district’s guidelines, despite the FFRF’s accusations, he told AL.com.
“Some community leaders submitted a written request to hold an event in the Fyffe campus gymnasium,” Barnett wrote in an email, responding to a request for comment about the complaint. “The event was approved in a manner consistent with requests made in the past by other organizations. To my knowledge, there are no administrators or faculty members involved in the organization and planning of the event.”
The atheist organization admitted that it had accused the district of wrongdoing solely over the claim of “a concerned DeKalb County Schools parent.” The group confirmed that the unnamed parent had accused school faculty members of organizing and promoting a Christian service, which the district denies.
Despite the atheist group’s attempt to shut down a Christian worship and prayer gathering, they made it more popular than ever. Unfortunately, the group is willing to enforce their own non-religious beliefs on the Christian majority, at the same time attempting to deny them the right to worship.