The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio Foundation will file suit against the Crestview School District, in Van Wert County, on Tuesday, May 15, 2001. The suit, which will be filed in United States District Court in Toledo, alleges that the District has violated the constitutional separation of church and state by including religious material in its curriculum and by distributing religious literature to students. ACLU of Ohio Staff Attorney Jillian Davis will be present to answer questions from the press at the time and place indicated above.
Since at least 1997, religious activities in the Crestview schools have taken a number of forms. Students have received biblical instruction during school hours.
Teachers have sent home packets of materials from local churches. Classes on character education with a “biblical theme” have been offered as part of the formal curriculum, and Bibles have been distributed to student assemblies. In December 2000, a Christmas assembly was held in which Bible passages were read to the assembled students. All these activities violate the Constitutional mandate separating church and state.
“These are more than trivial violations of the law,” said ACLU of Ohio Legal Director Raymond Vasvari. “These are severe and textbook violations, which need to stop at once.” Suit papers to be filed by the ACLU note that the Board of Education has been aware of religious instruction for some time, but has taken no steps to stop the illegal conduct.
The ACLU will be filing on behalf of a father his two children, both of whom are students in the Crestview Schools. The suit asks the Federal Court to issue an order requiring the school district to respect the separation of church and state.