The Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) specializes in bullying small schools and local governments around the country over what it perceives to be a little too much religion going on. The atheist organization sends out demand letters written by its lawyers ordering the recipient to cease and desist from practices it deems violate the “separation of church and state” and then demands an immediate response. The implied threat, based on its history, is that it will not hesitate to bring a lawsuit and force its victims to either yield under pressure or be subject to court orders and steep attorney’s fees awards. Most small cities and schools do not have the financial resources to push back, so they do what FFRF demands.
FFRF’s latest target is a school district in Cameron, Missouri where allegedly the local high school coaches are leading their teams in prayer and bringing in guest preachers to proselytize the boys.
The Cameron school district is not without its legal friends, however. In this case, the Missouri Attorney General (AG) sent his own letter to the school district indicating his support for the high school while critiquing the FFRF allegations. Most notably, the AG pointed out the significant facts involved in this situation:
“Our understanding is that no coach or other Cameron official has forced any football player to participate in prayer or taken any action against any player who chose not to participate. The prayer occurs outside of the football game. The prayer is not broadcast over stadium loudspeakers, and fans evidently cannot hear any part of the prayer. The school district reports that it received no complaints from anyone about the prayer, and FFRF does not reference any complainant in their letter. Evidently, FFRF’s threat does not reflect any discomfort with the prayers in the local community. Rather, it reflects only FFRF’s radical agenda. And without a complainant, FFRF lacks standing to sue the school district, no matter how strongly it objects to this voluntary prayer.”
FFRF claims to have over 30,000 members nationwide, but only 400—according to FFRF—reside in the state of Missouri. And none of those 400 have complained about Cameron High School. Yet the out-of-state organization claims the mantle of authority to dictate to Cameron and other small municipalities around the country what their constitutional boundaries are in matters of faith in the public square. Far from being the defender of wronged citizens, its demand letter reveals it believes it doesn’t even need local support for its claims.
That’s why the AG’s letter hits the nail on the head when it makes the point that without a local citizen making a complaint, the atheist group cannot even hope to get into court to sue the school district.
And should FFRF manage to find a local atheist to jump on its bandwagon, the school district can count on the AG’s help.
“But if FFRF seeks to silence voluntary prayer outside of Cameron’s football games through a lawsuit,” the AG’s letter promises, “we will support your football team’s lawful, voluntary decision to pray.”
Let’s pray the school district calls FFRF’s bluff.
Photo from Cameron High School