More complaints surface over religion in Houston schools

cgrant@macon.comJuly 13, 2012 

WARNER ROBINS -- Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national organization working to protect the separation of church and state, sent another letter to Houston County schools Friday outlining additional complaints received from multiple families.

The organization first contacted the school district in June, issuing complaints about prayers and other religious happenings at several high school graduations.

Those initial complaints led to new reports of alleged constitutional violations throughout the school system, the letter addressed to school district’s attorney, William Jerles, states.

The letter points to religious imagery displayed at schools; instances of schools partnering with churches; school alma maters or mottos, summer reading recommendations and academic bowl questions “inculcating students with ideas about Jesus and God;” and prayers at various school events -- some led by school employees.

“It is clear that there is a systematic lack of adherence to and respect for the First Amendment in Houston County Schools,” the Wisconsin-based organization’s attorney, Andrew Seidel, writes in the letter.

Seidel calls for “extensive corrective measures, including training of all (district) employees and administrators on the proper boundaries of the Establishment Clause.”

School spokeswoman Beth McLaughlin said the district’s June statement that it is the system’s “intent to comply with the prevailing law in these matters” still stands.

She added the district has received numerous e-mails and phone calls of support since the initial letter.

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