Elementary School Ends Christian Club After Atheists Complain

The only elementary school in Hamilton County, Florida, ended its Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) club after atheists complained it was “unconstitutional.”

In March, the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) wrote to Superintendent Dorothy Lee Wetherington-Zamora, alleging a “constitutional violation” occurred in the school district.

“Students have the First Amendment right to be free from religious indoctrination in their public schools,” the letter read. “While the Equal Access Act protects students’ right to form religious clubs in secondary schools, it does not apply to elementary schools.”

“The Establishment Clause prohibits school employees from organizing or leading a religious club for students and therefore prohibits religious clubs in elementary schools,” the letter added. “Likewise, a public school cannot legally allow outside adults to run a religious club for children at an elementary school.”

“Any claims that the Hamilton Elementary FCA club is ‘student led’ are at best naive and at worst dishonest. Young children cannot practically initiate, organize, and run an FCA club on their own, meaning adults are the ones truly behind the club.”

The school district’s legal team responded to FFRF, saying the matter was investigated and “concluded that there was a small group of fifth grade students participating in such a club at the school.”

“While these same students will be eligible to participate in FCA on the campus of Hamilton County High School in a few short months as six graders, in an effort to avoid any perception that such a gathering on the campus of Hamilton Elementary is being organized, promoted or endorsed by the District or its employees, the club has been dispersed,” the response read.

“The Hamilton County School District ought to know better than allowing a religious group free access to students during the day,” FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said in a statement. “School districts exist to educate, not indoctrinate into religion.”

Non-profit legal organization First Liberty Institute criticized the school for caving to FFRF.

“Banning students from having a religious club at a school while permitting other, secular clubs is a travesty that teaches children their faith is unwelcome and must be hidden,” First Liberty Institute senior counsel Justin Butterfield said in a statement obtained by the Christian Post. “The Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized that students’ religious viewpoints are protected by the First Amendment and that students do not give up their free speech rights while at school — including elementary schools.”