Church, state separation issue has been addressed, central Pa. school official says

The Freedom From Religion Foundation claims the violation occurred before the high school football team’s first two games of the season.

  • John Beauge/PennLive

(Sunbury) — The superintendent of the Shikellamy School District questions why the Freedom From Religion Foundation wants an investigation into an issue he says has been addressed.

Superintendent Jason S. Beadle Wednesday was reacting to a Nov. 22 letter that accuses the district of violating the constitutional principle of separation between church and state.The non-profit organization based in Madison, Wis., claims the violation occurred before the high school football team’s first two games of the season when coaches appeared to be praying with players.

Attached to the letter are copies of pictures showing the purported praying.

Beadle said he was provided the pictures after the second game, addressed the situation and notified the foundation of his action.

The letter from foundation staff attorney Madeline Ziegler asks for an investigation and a halt to all school-sponsored prayers within the district’s athletic programs, he said.

It also asks the Beadle to inform the foundation of steps being taken to prevent a recurrence.

The foundation contends there was a constitutional violation because coaches as school district employees participated in the praying.

Ziegler points out the U.S. Supreme Court continually has struck down school-sponsored prayer in public schools.

A concerned local resident made the foundation aware of what Ziegler states in the letter was a “serious and flagrant violation of the First Amendment.”

She sent a similar letter in July to the Montoursville Area School District contending a violation occurred when members of the high school baseball team prior to a May 31 PIAA District 4 playoff game kneeled in a circle and prayed.

In response, Montoursville Superintendent Christina Bason pledged to take steps, if necessary, to ensure First Amendment rights are always protected.

The foundation describes itself as a state/church watchdog and a voice for “freethought,” which includes atheism, agnosticism and skepticism.

It claims to have more than 30,000 members in the United States with at least 900 in Pennsylvania.

 

PennLive and The Patriot-News are partners with PA Post.

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