Monday, September 28, 2020
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Court Order Stops Smith Co. Schools From Religion Promotion

The Smith County School System has agreed to a permanent injunction Monday that will ban imposing religion on students.

A federal district court issued the injunction following a lawsuit brought on by two families. Now, Smith County Schools may not incorporate official prayer into school events, pray with students or encourage or promote student prayer.

The court also ruled promoting personal religious beliefs, posting religious images and inviting outside or third party guests to pray during school events would be prohibited. Also prohibiting outside guests from proselytizing to students and distributing religious literature to students in class.

In a release from the ACLU-Tennessee, plaintiff Kelly Butler spoke on the federal district court’s decision.

“I’m relieved the school district recognized that its widespread promotion of religion was unconstitutional,” Butler said.

The activities that have been ruled unconstitutional were reported by the families to span several school years. The families reported school directed prayer during mandatory assemblies, the distribution and displaying of Bibles during class and Bible verses posted in hallways and in notes from school staff to students.

Sports were also included in the list of activities. Prayer being broadcast during school sporting events, coaches leading or participating in prayer with student athletes and a large Latin cross painted on the wall of a school athletic facility.

In a statement from the ACLU-TN Monday, Executive Director Hedy Weinberg commented on the agreement.

“Today’s consent decree ensures that the Smith County Schools will be focused on providing a quality education to all students,” Weinberg said. “Regardless of their religious beliefs.”

The court order comes in the form of a consent decree, which is an agreement between the two parties to resolve the lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU and ACLU of Tennessee.

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