The Freedom From Religion Foundation wants Lake Local Schools to change its values.
The school district’s mission statement includes the phrase “we value” followed by a list that includes “belief in God and religious freedom.” The statement is on the front page of a newsletter mailed to Lake Local residents this month.
Annie Laurie Gaylor, Freedom From Religion Foundation co-president, called the statement “shocking” and “one of the most egregious” violations she has seen of the Constitution’s language separating church and state.
“They’re saying they don’t value you unless you believe in a god,” Gaylor said. The statement vilifies nonbelievers, she contends.
The foundation, based in Madison, Wis., wants the phrase “belief in God” removed from any of the district’s publications or Web postings. A letter to Superintendent Jeff Wendorf and Board of Education President Ken Brott ended with “we do need your assurances that your district will take immediate action to end this violation.”
Wendorf said Thursday that school officials and their lawyers are investigating the complaint.
Officials want “to make sure that we’re appropriate in our interpretation of the First Amendment,” Wendorf said.
The phrase has been part of Lake Local’s mission statement for many years, he said.
Freedom From Religion Foundation members haven’t filed any legal action against the district.
Gaylor said filing a lawsuit would have to be the foundation’s last option after exhausting requests for the district to stop using the phrase. If a lawsuit is filed, the foundation would need a plaintiff with children in the district to participate in the action.
The foundation learned about the mission statement after receiving two e-mails from residents. Gaylor said the people fear reprisal and want to remain anonymous.
Gaylor doesn’t believe the foundation will need to go to court. She expects the district will quickly drop the “believe in God” phrase.
“You can’t pray in the school, so how can you talk about believing in God in your school promotions?” Gaylor said.
It’s not the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s first foray into Stark County. Last December the organization paid for a billboard message — “Imagine No Religion” — on 12th Street NW just west of Market Avenue N.
The mission statement posted by Lake Local Schools is broken into several segments. Here is the first portion of the statement.
Mission: Providing education to achieve success.
Vision: To be the best organization for learning.
We Value: Responsibility, honesty, respect, integrity, commitment, belief in God and religious freedom, our community, our partnerships, and every person as a unique individual with the ability to acquire and apply knowledge.
Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., has complained to Lake Local officials about using “belief in God.” The foundation has demanded the district stop using the phrase as a violation of the First Amendment.
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You know..about..98% of that school's faculty and staff goes to church, the other 2% that are not religious don't care. What's the issue?
What's the problem here? they never made us go to church or anything of that nature, and never pushed religion on us what-so-ever. There has been little harm ever done or any offense taken from what I've seen.
And what "God" do they define? It could be Allah, Yahweh, or any number of Gods. This is facism, plain and simple. If you're that offended because someone shares a different view point then yours that's what it is. Grow a set of balls and deal with the real world.