FFRF sends warning after religious assembly gives Ala. school district bad rap

1FlatlineMovementThe Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) is warning an Alabama school district to end its promotion of religion to students and staff after a Christian rap group performed at several schools in the district. 

A concerned community member of Montgomery Public Schools reported to FFRF that Robert E. Lee High School held a religious assembly for its students earlier this month. Staff members were informed ahead of the event that the assembly would have “religious undertones.” This, FFRF has been told, was an understatement. The event was a Christian rap group’s proselytizing performance of Christian music to students. 

At the beginning of the performance, the group announced to the students, “We gonna be singing about Jesus, and if y’all ain’t comfortable with that, you can just go on back to class.” 

It was reported to FFRF that multiple students said they were extremely uncomfortable during the assembly and that they had wanted to leave, but felt like they would have been singled out if they did. The assembly was reportedly mandatory, and all the teachers were present, leaving students who wanted to leave with no legitimate place to go. The group also performed at the district’s Jefferson Davis High School and Sidney Lanier High School this month.

The performing group is called the “Flatline Movement,” a Christian ministry that, according to its website, “take[s] the Gospel to the streets of Montgomery and other cities throughout Alabama through the use of Christian rappers, singers, motivational speakers, mime dancers and skits followed by preaching the word of God.”

The website also reveals that group’s primary founder, Dewayne Rembert, “left his corporate job and started driving a school bus for the public school system so that he could build friendships and relationships with a significant number of kids. Serving as a bus driver opened up opportunities for his ministry in numerous places around Montgomery.”

“This admission that he was using his position within the public school system to target children for religious proselytizing should be extremely concerning to the district,” writes FFRF Legal Fellow Chris Line in a letter sent to Superintendent Ann Roy Moore. “This type of event is blatantly unconstitutional. It is well settled that public schools may not advance or promote religion.”

“A child’s religious or nonreligious upbringing is the responsibility of parents, not a public school district,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Montgomery Public Schools must direct its focus, time and resources toward educating its students, not proselytizing to them."

Holding a school assembly with religious content by Christian performers gives the appearance that Montgomery Public Schools endorses those speakers religious message. FFRF notes that it is inappropriate to take aware instructional time from students to expose them to Christian proselytizing, especially when nearly 40 percent of millennials identify as nonreligious. And proselytizing assemblies do not just violate student and parental rights — they needlessly subject the school district to serious legal liability.

FFRF is warning the district to comply with the First Amendment and to protect the rights of conscience of all of its students and employees by making certain that ‘Flatline Movement,’ or any other religious groups, will not be allowed to present at a school assembly again. FFRF is also requesting that future school events will be vetted to ensure compliance with constitutional requirements.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with 33,000 members across the country, including members in Alabama. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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