Freedom From Religion Foundation letter sent to Abington Heights School District regarding potential church/state violation

On September 28, 2011, I wrote an article about the participation of Abington Heights School District’s principal in a student-led ‘see you at the pole’ prayer event before school hours. Suprisingly, (or not), Principal Pam Murray attended the event, supported the “prayerful students,” and said, about the students and the event, “If they can take those core values that they’re sharing with one another here today and apply them in the classroom then it certainly helps to make our school community and community at large a better place.”

It seems quite evident that Murray’s comments and participation are indicative of governmental endorsement/support of religion. I sent a complaint about this to the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the FFRF recently sent a letter to the school district/principal in question.

The letter notes, “It is clear that federal law dictates government employees should refrain from actively participating in religious activities while acting within their governmental role to avoid any perception of government endorsement of religion and/or excessive entanglement with religion. Your quote, as reported in the local media, gives the impression that your official support for the students at the event crosses the line from supporting their right to assemble to supporting the theology implicated by the “See You at the Pole” event” and “… even if SYATP events are student-initiated, faculty members are prohibited from participating. Such participation violates the Establishment Clause.”

The FFRF and I await a response from the principal. You can read the FFRF letter in-full below:

FFRF letter sent to Abington Heights PA

Justin Vacula

Justin Vacula hosts the Stoic Philosophy Podcast; serves as co-organizer and spokesperson for the Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA) Freethought Society; and has hosted monthly Stoic Philosophy discussion groups for the Humanist Association of Greater Philadelphia.

He has appeared on and hosted various radio shows and podcasts; participated in formal debates and discussions; was a guest speaker for college-level courses; was featured in local, national, and international news; and has been invited to speak at various national, local, and statewide events.

Vacula received bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Psychology, a minor in Professional Writing, and the distinguished W.A. Kilburn Memorial Award for Philosophy from King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He is currently living in the Scranton, PA area attending Marywood University’s graduate-level Mental Health Counseling program and has worked with the Arc of Luzerne County’s Transition to Community Employment program as a teacher’s assistant and job coach alongside adult learners with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

He also plays poker; volunteers as a member of the website and media team for the Greyhawk Reborn Dungeons & Dragons campaign while playing at events in the Eastern United States; and enjoys metal music.