ACLU of Maine Reacts to Proselytizing at Biddeford Schools
Letter to School Says Religious Assemblies Are Unconstitutional
October 4, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: 212-549-2666, email@example.com
BIDDEFORD – The ACLU of Maine today sent a letter to school administrators in Biddeford warning them that proselytizing in public schools is unconstitutional. The ACLU is investigating claims that students at Biddeford High School and Biddeford Middle School were subjected to overtly religious presentations at school last week, after a concerned parent called the ACLU to report that students were brought to an assembly at which representatives of Life Choices Presents proselytized students based on their own Christian values.
“While students have an basic right to pray voluntarily and express themselves religiously at school, the Constitution prohibits school-sponsored religion,” said Zachary Heiden, Legal Director of the ACLU of Maine. “Maine’s public schools should be focused on providing students with a quality education, not religious coercion.”
The assembly was led by Pastor Debbie Phillips who, along with her husband Pastor John Phillips, founded the Life Choices Ministry in 1999. Both Debbie and John Phillips were ordained as ministers by the “Passion and Fire Worship Center” in 2004. Their ministry’s mission has been described as ” bringing the message of abstinence, salvation and the ministry of life ” to students across the country.
Life Choices presentations include video footage of dead high school students taken from the Columbine High School shooting, as well as graphic accounts of the murder of Rachel Scott, the niece of the presenters and one of the victims at Columbine. They also include the promotion of abstinence and judgmental statements about clothing choices, among other topics. They include multiple references to “Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior,” “God,” and “being killed for Christ.”
“It is the right of families, not schools, to raise their children with certain religious beliefs and values – or none at all,” said Heiden. “This sort of proselytizing has no place in Maine’s public schools, and we are hopeful other schools will keep that in mind when planning presentations.”
The ACLU’s letter asks the Biddeford schools to issue an apology to students and faculty and to commit to not inviting Life Choices or any similar entities to minister to students again.
Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.
The latest in Religious Liberty
ACLU Sues Saucon Valley School District for Prohibiting After School Satan Club from Meeting in District Facilities
The Satanic Temple v. Saucon Valley School District
Saucon Valley School District Must Allow After School Satan Club to Meet at District Facilities, ACLU Warns
West Virginia Lawmakers are Pushing Public Schools to Teach Creationism
The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.
Learn More About Religious Liberty
The ACLU strives to safeguard the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty by ensuring that laws and governmental practices neither promote religion nor interfere with its free exercise.