ACLU Says Holding School Functions in Local Churches is Unconstitutional
The American Civil Liberties Union has put the Lufkin School District on notice that it's unconstitutional to hold school functions in local churches.
In a letter to the LISD Board, the ACLU says the school district is violating the First Amendment by hosting events such as the National Honor Society induction, senior breakfast, special education graduation and a handful of teacher workshops at First United Methodist Church, and a teacher development workshop at Southside Baptist Church.
The ACLU says the school district is sending the message that it endorses the church and favors Christianity over other faiths.
LISD superintendent Roy Knight says all the functions mentioned in the ACLU letter were held in a church because the high school auditorium was under construction, and there was no other affordable venue large enough for them. The auditorium is now complete, and all the events have been relocated to the high school.
Knight also says the events in the churches were not religious church services. They were school related events, and the church was not involved in any way. The churches merely provided the facility.
The ACLU says holding secular events in churches coerces students and their guests into participating in religion, whether they want to or not.
The ACLU letter is what's called a "cease and desist" letter, and it often accomplishes the group's goal without litigation. The ACLU doesn't have to file a lawsuit to get its way because small town and rural school districts can't afford to fight back.
LISD Supt. Roy Knight says it's his job to keep the district in compliance with all state and federal laws and avoid unnecessary litigation.