CLEVELAND, OH – Today, the ACLU of Ohio and the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief sent a letter to the Lebanon City School District, warning them about the constitutional implications of turning over their school gym classes to His Pins, an evangelical group that teaches creationism alongside archery.
The program began in several local churches, but has now expanded into public schools. The classes in question are taught by clergy members and the program includes a religious devotion along with lessons connecting the sport of archery with biblical creationism.
“This group openly admits that they are proselytizing to public school students during classroom time,” said ACLU of Ohio staff attorney Drew Dennis. “These children are legally required to attend public school; that makes them a captive audience. When outside instructors take advantage of this fact to advance their own religious views, it sends a message that the school endorses one set of religious beliefs above all others.”
In a local media story, the assistant director of the archery program, who is also a youth pastor at Countryside Church of the Nazarene, made it clear that the program teaches archery “as well as the work of God,” and that one of the goals of the program was “talking about creation.”
“It is the job of families to educate their children on spiritual values, not the government,” said Dennis. “If families want their children to learn about archery and biblical creationism at the same time, there are ample opportunities off school grounds. There is no need to create unnecessary constitutional problems by involving the public school system.”
The ACLU letter outlines several court cases affirming that creationism cannot be taught in public schools and asks the Lebanon City School District to take steps to address this issue in the future.
“Whether the school is using outside instructors or their own personnel, the First Amendment clearly prohibits them from using class instructional time to teach creationism or impose devotionals on students,” said Heather L. Weaver, staff attorney with the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief.