ACLU Report Details Violations Of Religious Freedom
by: Shomial Ahmad, September 12, 2012 4:09:00 pm
In the report, there's an example of a sixth grade teacher leading his class daily in Christian prayer. And then there's a district-wide policy on banning students from wearing rosaries and crosses. Executive Director of the ACLU of Texas Terri Burke says often people are ostracized once they complain.
"We hear too many instances of state-imposed religion, and by state, I mean, teachers and principals and school officials, who impose their own religious beliefs on our school children."
And it was at Kingwood Park High School in Humble Independent School District where Kynndal Teel, who is now 17 years old, says she was taunted after she decided not to lead a prayer at a swim team awards ceremony when she was a freshman.
"Everybody like looked at me like, 'Oh she's not Christian.' Some boys on Facebook told me that I was going to burn in hell, because I didn't believe."
Kynndal's mother Toni says the school officials and administrators didn't intervene in the situation. Instead, she says, teachers at the school became more public about their religious beliefs.
"My daughter had to swim during that year with a picture of Jesus in the pool area that her coach had put up. The band director at every football event, during halftime, had his students play 'God of our fathers,' and he stated himself, this was to honor the Catholic faith."
Toni says that her daughter quit swim team and graduated early to get out of the situation. Humble Independent School District e-mailed a statement saying they cannot comment on the situation, due to privacy laws. (Update: 5:30 p.m.)
ACLU officials says while it's okay for an individual kid to express religion in school a state institution, like a public school, should not be involved in religion in any way.
Rebecca Robertson with the ACLU of Texas says these are fundamental rights.
"The guarantee of religious liberty is literally the first freedom that's protected in the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution and our Texas Constitution, likewise, provides that the state is not to interfere in matters of conscious."
The Texas chapter is distributing material and holding presentations at different community groups and faith-based groups around the state.