Our First Initiative is following Petition Concerning The "Indian River Incident". For more information on that incident, in which a Jewish family fled its home in Southern Delaware following a dispute - and the subsequent harassment o the family which included death threats - over the promotion of Christianity in Indian River School District schools. For more information on the incident, see: here
Take Action to Stop Religious Intolerance in Schools: Sign Petition on Tolerance in Indian River School District
The following, more detailed synopsis of the Indian River Incident was written by Steve Rockwell of CrossLeft :
A Jewish family living in southern Delaware was forced to move 2 hours away to flee the promotion of Christianity in their public schools. When the family raised the issue within the school district, their children became the subject of anti-Semitic slurs. We call on all people of faith, especially Christians, to support freedom of religion and tolerance in our public schools.
Send a message to the Superintendent of the Indian River School District by Signing the Petition.
"The Concerns of the Family Regarding Intolerance
The [ Dobrich ] family has since filed a lawsuit against the Indian River School District that alleges an environment of "religious exclusion" including:
- The district's "custom and practice of school-sponsored prayer" frequently imposed ... on impressionable non-Christian students," violating their constitutional rights.
- The district ignored the Supreme Court's 1992 Lee decision limiting prayer at graduation ceremonies -- even after a district employee complained about the prayer at her child's 2003 graduation.
- District teachers and staff led Bible clubs at several schools. Club members got to go to the head of the lunch line.
- While Bible clubs were widely available, student book clubs were rare and often canceled by the district.
- When Jane Doe complained that her non-Christian son "Jordan Doe" was left alone when his classmates when to Bible club meetings, district staff insisted that Jordan should attend the club regardless of his religion.
- The district schools attended by Jordan and his sister "Jamie Doe" distributed Bibles to students in 2003, giving them time off from class to pick up the books.
- Prayer --often sectarian -- is a routine part of district sports programs and social events
- One of the district's middle schools gave students the choice of attending a special Bible Club if they did not want to attend the lesson on evolution.
- A middle school teacher told students there was only "one true religion" and gave them pamphlets for his surfing ministry.
- Samantha Dobrich's honors English teacher frequently discussed Christianity, but no other religion.
- Students frequently made mandatory appearances at district board meetings -- where they were a captive audience for board members' prayers to Jesus.
We thank the Rev. Dr. Bruce Prescott, head of Mainstream Baptist of Oklahoma, for crafting the statement used in our petition. Dr. Prescott has written, further, a related theoretical document on the proper role of religious expression in public schools : Faith & Public Education: Rights & Responsibilities
Sign the Petition on Tolerance Now!
For a related effort, please visit the website of First Freedom First, a collaborative effort between The Interfaith Alliance and Americans United For The Separation Of Church and State First Freedom First has a petition affirming the separation of church and state that you may be interested in also signing.
Here is the text of that petition:
"We, the undersigned, call upon elected and appointed officials to join us in reaffirming America's religious freedom by demonstrating a commitment to the following:
* Every American should have the right to make personal decisions -- about family life, reproductive health, end of life care and other matters of personal conscience.
* American tax dollars should not go to charities that discriminate in hiring based on religious belief or that promote a particular religious faith as a requirement for receiving services.
* Political candidates should not be endorsed or opposed by houses of worship.
* Public schools should teach with academic integrity and without the promotion of religious preference or belief.
* Decisions about scientific and health policies should be based on the best available scientific data, not on religious doctrine.
We join together, as the most diverse nation in the world, to commit ourselves to defending and preserving this freedom."