ACLU Launches Religious Freedom Campaign
Organization aims to strengthen religious freedom in South Carolina's schools.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of South Carolina recently launched a “Religious Freedom Goes to School” campaign to encourage freedom from religion in South Carolina’s public schools.
The organization sent letters to all public schools in the state requesting policy information on religion and suggesting they review these policies. The ACLU has also added an online survey for students, parents or school employees to report possible religious freedom violations.
COMING THURSDAY: The Freedom From Religion Foundation tells Patch why it chose to help students file suit against Irmo High School in Lexington-Richland School District 5.
COMING FRIDAY: We profile the Irmo High School student who chose to fight prayer at the school's June graduation.
In the letter to schools, the organization writes that its campaign will “challenge all of our public schools to do more to protect these time-honored First Amendment rights.” While advising schools to change policies if they are not compliant with the latest settled law, they state that “litigation will be a last resort.”
“It’s important that all students know that they’re going back to school to a place where they will be welcome no matter what they believe,” said Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina, in a press release. “We’ve received too many reports of religious freedom violations, especially complaints that many South Carolina schools continue to impose religion on students.”
In the past two years, the ACLU has received complaints regarding teacher-led class prayers; Bible distribution; prayer at graduation ceremonies, sporting events, etc.; school events featuring religious content; coach-led prayer at sporting events and opening prayers at board meetings, among others.
The ACLU, with its campaign, hopes to educate schools on their duty to protect students from religious exercises and to “uncover and correct violations.”
The organization has worked to protect religious freedom for more than 90 years, and recently represented a student in a religious freedom case against Chesterfield County School District. The district signed a consent decree, which the ACLU suggests should be used as a model throughout the state.