Pastors Should Ignore Freedom From Religion Foundation’s Scare Tactics And Keep Visiting Students Who Attend Their Churches At School
- By Alliance Defending Freedom
- Posted Jan 31, 2013
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By Jeremy Tedesco, Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel
Make no mistake. Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) is not pro-separation. They are anti-religion. Indeed, only a group motivated by religious animus could label pastors visiting student members of their congregation during the school day inappropriate, unconstitutional, even predatory. Yet this is precisely what FFRF has done in objecting to an Arkansas school district’s long-standing policy of allowing pastors to meet and eat with their student members during lunchtime.
FFRF is just flat wrong about any Establishment Clause problems with this practice. The School District’s visitor policy does not encourage or discourage pastors to visit the school. It is, rather, an entirely neutral policy that sets the procedures anyone must follow if they want to visit the school. There is no governmental promotion of religion going on here at all.
Rather than wringing their hands over whether they are violating the Establishment Clause by permitting pastors to utilize a neutral visitor access policy, schools should be more concerned about the blatant religious discrimination they would be engaging in if they opened their doors to all visitors, except pastors, as FFRF would have them do. Such a policy would clearly violate the First Amendment rights of pastors. As the United States Supreme Court has said, “religious people (or groups of religious people) cannot be denied the opportunity to exercise the rights of citizens simply because of their religious affiliations or commitments, for such a disability would violate the right to religious free exercise.” Bd. of Educ.of Kiryas Joel Vill. Sch. Dist. v. Grumet, 512 U.S. 687, 698 (1994).
Simply put, FFRF’s proposal smacks of religious hostility and intolerance that has no place in American society. As the venerable Supreme Court Justice William Brennan once said: “The Establishment Clause does not license government to treat religion and those who teach or practice it, simply by virtue of their status as such, as subversive of American ideals and therefore subject to unique disabilities.” McDaniel v. Paty, 435 U.S. 618, 641 (1978). I am hard pressed to think of a quote that better summarizes FFRF’s dim view of religion and its place in our nation, both historically and today. Their advice on church-state matters is tainted by their distorted view of what the Establishment Clause requires, and more times than not schools that follow their advice will be enforcing rules and practices that restrict religion in ways that violate the First Amendment.
Author: Alliance Defending Freedom