The "Dirty Dozen" State/Church Violations

CFFC and FFRF Notify Florida's Superintendents of
The "Dirty Dozen" State/Church Violations

With nearly as many state/church violation complaints in Florida over the past 24 months as there are school boards in the state, the Central Florida Freethought Community (CFFC) and its parent organization, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), have sent a memo to all 67 public school superintendents across the state. The memo includes the 12 most common complaints-the "dirty dozen"-along with detailed explanations and citations to relevant case law.

The memo was sent by FFRF Co-Presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker, and CFFC Founder, David Williamson. It was principally researched by FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel and Law Clerk Neal Fitzgerald. The memo can be found at:

FFRF's attorneys have written to Florida school districts regarding more than 65 violations in the past two school years. The CFFC joined FFRF in a lawsuit against Orange County Public Schools regarding bible distributions. The memo is intended to "help educate district staff on how to protect students' rights of conscience by enforcing the Florida Constitution and Establishment Clause of the First Amendment."

"It is well settled that, as government bodies charged with educating the children of every citizen, public schools may not advance or endorse religion," the memo explains. In Florida, 24% of all people and 35% of millennials are nonreligious.

Williamson said of the memo, "The rights of our children, especially those of religious minorities, are being neglected far too often. We hope this proactive effort is seen by district and school administrators for exactly what it is; an opportunity for them to better understand and correct violations that may be occurring at their schools with or without their knowledge."

The state/church violations identified are:

  1. School events, including graduations and athletic events, may not include prayer.
  2. School staff, including teachers and coaches, may not organize, endorse, promote, or participate in prayers with students.  Nor may staff or non-school personnel participate in religious activities of student clubs such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
  3. School events, including graduations, should not be held in churches.
  4. Schools may not organize, endorse, promote, or participate in baccalaureate services.
  5. School clubs and athletic teams may not have a "chaplain" or religious counselor.
  6. Schools may not teach religious doctrine, including creationism or intelligent design.
  7. Schools must charge a fair rent to all organizations that lease school property; churches leasing school property must actually pay that rent and can only use school property during non-instructional time rental hours.
  8. Schools may not allow the distribution of bibles or religious literature on school property.
  9. Schools may not force students to stand for or recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
  10. Schools may not disallow atheist or non-believer clubs if other non-curricular clubs are allowed, regardless of whether a staff advisor volunteers.
  11. Schools may not allow religious displays on school property, including in classrooms and teachers' displays.
  12. "Voluntariness" cannot excuse a constitutional violation.

The memo welcomes any questions about the list and offers the schools the assistance of FFRF attorneys in conducting in service training for employees.

Read the full memo here: