CEAI Versus ACLU: David Versus Goliath
July 7, 2009
WESTLAKE, Ohio, (christiansunite.com) -- Christian Educators Association International (CEAI) has filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit filed earlier this year by the ACLU against the Santa Rosa County School District in Florida.
"We are David facing a Goliath. The ACLU is engaged in a well-financed, systematic campaign to intimidate Christian educators across the nation. We feel this case is so important that we must take a stand," says Finn Laursen, Executive Director of CEAI.
The ACLU charged that some teachers and administrators in the Florida district were actively endorsing religion. The school district attempted to settle the suit by joining with the ACLU in a consent decree that essentially bans all employees from engaging in prayer or religious activities, whether before, during, or after school hours.
The ACLU-authored consent decree defines prayer, school events, and school officials in such a way that employees who bow their head or fold their hands, pray over meals during lunch, or voice agreement with another in religious discussion at any time on school property or at any school event, can be found in contempt of court. It specifies that when individuals or community groups use school facilities for after- school religious events, no district employee, even on his or her own private time, may participate or communicate agreement in any prayer or religious discourse.
"The consent decree is so broad that it unconstitutionally infringes on the rights of teachers, administrators, and students," says Laursen. "Our particular interest is that it violates the free speech and free exercise rights of CEAI members, both in their capacities as employees of the school board and as private citizens. The order also forces CEAI members to infringe upon the rights of students and others. CEAI will support its members employed by the Santa Rosa County School Board who are opposed to the unconstitutional consent order."
"As a professional association for Christian educators founded in 1953, we have historically encouraged our members by informing them that they do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse door. We have consistently clarified in print, through technology, and in workshops and seminars across the country what courts have always held, that schools are not religion free zones. We have corrected the misconception that prayer has been banned from public schools and that teachers are limited in their religious expression on their own time."
"If we just sit by and allow constitutional religious freedoms to be bullied out of public schools, we will end up surrendering them all together. We are not willing to sit by and see this happen in Santa Rosa County."
CEAI is represented in the case by Liberty Counsel.
Finn Laursen is the Executive Director of Christian Educators Association International.