ACLU Warns Edon Northwest Local School District Against Promoting Religion in Schools
EDON, OHIO—The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio has sent a letter to the Superintendent of the Edon Northwest Local School District asking him to abandon sectarian policies and practices that violate the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
According to ACLU of Ohio Staff Attorney Drew Dennis, the organization is investigating reports that the school district distributes student handbooks that reference overt religious policies and holds religious assemblies during school hours. To conduct its inquiry, the ACLU has requested relevant records from the school district.
“Parents should decide what religious or spiritual values they impart on their children, not schools. Students and their families should be free to worship or not as they so choose without school officials’ interference,” said Dennis. “Not only is it bad policy, it is also unconstitutional. Time and again, the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed that officials cannot impose their religious viewpoints in public schools.”
Specifically, the Edon Northwest Local School District’s student handbook states: “As we strive to achieve our Vision and accomplish our Mission, we value…Honesty and Christian values.” Additionally, the school district has a firmly established tradition of inviting ministers to speak and pray at school assemblies. Reports claim that students in several grades are required to attend these assemblies, which are held during school hours prior to holiday breaks, and can only opt out with parental approval.
“The ACLU has a long history of defending everyone’s individual right to practice the religion of their choice or none at all,” added Dennis. “When the government promotes religion, it threatens the religious freedom of everyone. And it’s the prerogative of families, not public school officials, to educate children on spiritual values.”