60

My daughter's public school principal has put up Christian symbols and quotes and also invited a public speaker to present during an assembly who told students that God and prayer was the answer to their problems. Is there a government place where I can anonymously report this?

I don't want to complain directly as there could be retaliation.

  • 32
    "put up Christian symbols and quotes" is rather vague: There's a big difference between a small crucifix and quote on the wall of his personal office, seasonal images of a fourth-century bishop and saint, or plastering a prominent Chi-Rho on every public surface. Actively using his position to proselytise is certainly reportable, quietly showing pride in his beliefs is probably not. (I assume you have already done an analysis on this though) – Chronocidal Sep 3 at 11:08
  • 32
    @DavidBoshton Uh, what? It seems clear that most people who do yoga in the west do not practice it as a form of religious worship. It's exercise and has nothing to do with Buddhism. – Apologize and reinstate Monica Sep 3 at 21:22
  • 9
    The Establishment Clause says that Congress can't establish a national religion. It's not being broken here. Part of the purpose of having the Establishment Clause in the first place was to preclude the federal government from interfering with religions that had already been established in the individual colonies. Whatever one may think about the merits of separation of church and state, the only Constitutional separations between them are that a federal religion can't be declared, people can freely exercise their religion, and a religion can't be required to hold office. – reirab Sep 4 at 6:30
  • 11
    @reirab but the separation clause does forbid state-funded entities (like a public school) from pushing a religion on a captive audience (like children in a school assembly) – ratchet freak Sep 4 at 12:51
  • 8
    @ratchetfreak There is no "separation clause." Only the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause. There was never any clause originally intended to prevent state-funded entities from pushing a religion. The states originally actually had state religions in many cases. The Establishment Clause specifically prevented the federal government from doing so, not a state or local government. Some courts have erroneously attempted to incorporate the Establishment Clause on the states, but it was never intended to be so, either originally or with the passage of the 14th Amendment. – reirab Sep 4 at 15:18
77

Contact the local affiliate of the ACLU: Affiliates | American Civil Liberties Union. They have a long history of protecting schools and public institutions from religious influences. They will be able to determine the legality of the displays in the school and if the subject of the presentation by the speaker is legally problematic, and will know the correct approach to the school board and school district and their legal representatives.

See Religion and Public Schools | American Civil Liberties Union:

Dating back to the Bible Riots of the mid-1800s, the role of religion in public schools has been one of the most hotly disputed—and most frequently misunderstood—religious freedom issues in America. Even though the U.S. Supreme Court has long made clear that the Constitution prohibits public school-sponsored prayer or religious indoctrination, violations remain rampant in many parts of the country.

The ACLU can protect your identity. Or, use a throwaway email from Yahoo or similar service, or use *67 to block caller ID when phoning.

If for some reason the ACLU finds little they can legally do, and if your local newspaper(s) or TV station(s) are not politically conservative, contact them and see if they want to cover the situation.

  • 76
    If the ACLU does not act, the Satanic Temple is another organization that will press this. They'd be happy to demand that, if Christian materials are put up on school property, Satanic ones also be included. – R.. Sep 3 at 12:16
  • 31
    It's both hilarious and terrifying that to try and minimize christian indoctrination the reasonable thing to do in the US is talk to an organization called the Satanic Temple. – DRF Sep 4 at 11:18
  • 9
    @DRF As I understand it, it's meant to be a parody. – user253751 Sep 4 at 14:09
  • 13
    Just make sure you don't confuse the Satanic Temple (good) with the Church of Satan (bad, reactionary dogmatists, the kind of satanists who ruin satanism) – llama Sep 4 at 15:03
  • 1
    "... use *67 to block caller ID when phoning..." - be careful of *67. If the number called is an toll-free 800/866 number, then the called party gets your identity anyways. – jww Sep 4 at 22:46
48

The ACLU is an excellent choice.

Let me also recommend the Freedom from Religion Foundation. They handle these outrages on a regular basis.

  • 3
    They (FFRF) certainly get schools and small under funded communities to capitulate. But they most frequently lose the legal battles when they go to court, especially against organizations like the ACLJ (American Center for Law and Justice), ADF (Alliance Defending Freedom), or PJI (Pacific Justice Institute). Frequently, these groups will also defend the school or community free of charge. However, these groups will also provide guidance to the schools and communities on what meets standards as established by precedent. – wolfsshield Sep 4 at 12:38
  • How do you know it is an outrage? – copper.hat Sep 5 at 21:34
  • I guess as a non-Christian, I like the American idea the other guys' religion doesn't get shoved at my kids at state expense. I realize that in other countries, even ones that are liberal democracies like Canada and the UK, other rules apply. The FFRF has no trouble ending these practices because they violate well-established precedents. – Andrew Lazarus Sep 5 at 22:01
9

I would recommend contacting Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

If you check their website, you can see their mission:

Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a nonpartisan educational and advocacy organization dedicated to advancing the separation of religion and government as the only way to ensure freedom of religion, including the right to believe or not believe, for all.

They deal specifically with the issues like yours:

We use high-impact litigation, powerful lobbying and grassroots advocacy to ensure that:

  • Religion does not dictate public policy. The government does not tell Americans what to believe or how to practice their faith.
  • Discrimination is not justified under the guise of religion.​

There's a page on AU's wbsite for reporting violations of the Establishment Clause: https://www.au.org/get-involved/report-a-violation/form.

You can also get in touch with AU members who live near you: https://www.au.org/get-involved/chapters.

AU is not a government entity (as your question asks), however, they are very knowledgeable about the proper channels for such complaints, and about the nuances of the Establishment Clause of the first amendment.

protected by BlueDogRanch Sep 4 at 21:16

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.