GALLATIN, Tenn. (ABP) – The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee has filed a complaint accusing a county school board of violating the separation of church and state by promoting Christianity.
The complaint, filed on behalf of parents, alleges a pattern of endorsing religion in Sumner County schools, north of Nashville, since at least 2006. According to The Tennessean, examples cited include distribution of Bibles in at least two schools; a teacher who displayed a cross on a classroom wall; sectarian prayers over school loudspeakers and at school events; and holding graduation ceremonies for three high schools at Long Hollow Baptist Church.
The complaint, not yet a lawsuit, seeks an injunction to stop the religious activities. If a lawsuit develops, the American Center for Law and Justice has agreed to defend the school district.
The ACLU of Tennessee won a lawsuit over similar issues taking place in schools at nearby Wilson County in 2008, when a federal judge ruled that allowing parents to pray in the cafeteria at Mt. Juliet’s Lakeview Elementary School and pass out flyers during school hours amounted to an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.
The following year the same school district was sued by the Alliance Defense Fund after students at Lakeview Elementary were ordered to remove religious language like “In God We Trust” from posters promoting a “See You at the Pole” prayer rally. The school board lost that case, also, when a judge sided with students and ordered school officials to stop suppressing religious speech that is "reasonable" and “in accordance with federal law.”
Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.