|Norida high school teachers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Why is this such a problem? First, this is about a public school district inviting Christian clergy to deliver sectarian prayers and proselytize at an event they sponsored. Public schools are not supposed to be in the business of promoting religion. Second, the district appears to have required their employees to attend this event. So it wasn’t just inappropriate proselytizing of the sort government agencies are not allowed to engage in; it was mandatory for district employees. I’m not suggesting it would not be problematic otherwise, but I think it being mandatory for district employees takes it to another level.
The good news here is that the Jackson Public School District seems to have realized that this behavior is indefensible. In their response to the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center, they indicated that they would end the prayers and proselytizing at future events. Here is the video from WAPT News.
It is difficult at times for me to wrap my head around the fact that this sort of complaint would be necessary in 2014. I realize that this is Mississippi, but I am growing increasingly tired of hearing that used as an excuse for this sort of nonsense. Church-state violations like this happen much too often here, and it is great to see secular Mississippians standing up to hold our government accountable. Separation of church and state is an issue that should concern all religious minorities as well as anyone who takes social justice seriously.
I’d like to extend my gratitude to the teacher(s) who had the courage to initiate this complaint. Standing up for ourselves like this is rarely easy, but that does not make it any less important. Thanks as well to the Appignani Humanist Legal Center for their support. I’m sure there are many teachers employed by the Jackson Public School District who are grateful that they will no longer have to endure mandatory Christian proselytizing while on the job.
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