Mississippi Schools Cannot Display Religious Items

It is unconstitutional to endorse religion in a public school.

Teachers in Lee County School District were instructed by the school superintendent that they cannot display any religious items inside their schools after officials received a letter by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). The Wisconsin headquartered organization sent a letter to the school district of Northeast Mississippi on March 8 alleging the concerned elementary school had multiple religious displays whose mere presence can be regarded as unconstitutional. The FFRF had reminded the district in its letter that public schools should not endorse religion.

It all began when a community member of Lee County Schools reported to the FFRF of multiple displays brazenly promoting religion in the public areas of the Saltillo Elementary School. Those areas were frequented not only by students but also by community members who arrived there on school or related business. One exhibit of note featured a Christian cross perched on the area above an administrator’s office door. Similar religious imagery was being displayed by many other school administrators, including a sign bearing the content “why worry when you can pray.” A few sacred objects even found pride of place on their desks. Even a painting which was exhibited at the school quoted a Bible verse.

Sam Grover, the FFRF Associate Counsel, wrote a letter to the specific district attorney, informing the government official all district employees must stop pushing religious beliefs of personal nature via religious displays installed on district property. The letter continued to state any presentations promoting religion including Latin crosses should be taken away from school areas frequented by students or the public.

A few teachers claimed to be sad when they were asked to take away religious property from school areas. One of them was Wendy Crawford, a mathematics teacher at Saltillo Elementary. She said her heart broke when the directive was sent to her school during the third week of March. She was upset that FFRF “attacked” her along with her colleagues simply due to their religious beliefs. In her social media post, she wrote she cried after reading the email which pointed out the various laws separating church and state violated by her and her colleagues. She said she is allowed to be a Christian. FFRF said it is not a violation of any employee’s free speech or an incursion into free exercise rights when it is needed to remove any religious displays from school grounds.

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