Jesus Christ is no longer welcome at a school district in Tipton, Missouri. And neither are prayers or a religious hymn.
The Tipton R-VI School District decided to cleanse itself of anything remotely affiliated with Christianity after they were bullied by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. They even pulled down a giant portrait of our Lord that was displayed in the grade school’s library.
The FFRF is a Wisconsin-based group of perpetually offended atheists, agnostics and free-thinkers. They fired off a nasty letter to the school board claiming to represent a “concerned attendee” of the annual high school awards program.
For as far back as anyone can remember, students at Tipton High School always concluded their annual awards program with a candlelight ceremony.
Teachers and students would circle up and sing, “Blest be the Tie that Binds” – a familiar hymn to church-goers.
Blest be the tie that binds,
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred mind,
Is like to that above.
When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.
I’d be willing to bet a Goo-Goo Cluster the atheists took offense to the part about “Christian love.”
“The singing of a hymn as part of the Candlelight ceremony is on par with other religious practices that courts have ruled are unconstitutional,” FFRF attorney Patrick Elliott wrote. “They hymn declares that participants are bound together as part of a Christian community.”
Attorney Elliott went on to complain that singing the hymn would lead to hurt feelings – that non-Christians “are outsiders, not full members of the political community.”
They also took offense at the school board’s practice of conducting a prayer during their meetings.
“School-sponsored religious exhibitions, such as singing a hymn signifying the group is part of a Christian community, are unconstitutional,” the attorney wrote. “Calling upon Board members, parents, students and members of the public to pray is similarly unconstitutional.”
Faster than you can sing Amazing Grace, the school board capitulated to the outrageous (and outrageous) demands of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
“In response to the letter, the District reviewed its practices in order to ensure compliance with both state and federal constitutional law,” Supt. Daniel Williams told me in a statement. “After this review, the District discontinued practices that could be construed as an endorsement of religion.”
“The District’s goal is to provide a positive learning environment for all its students and staff,” he went on to write. “The District strives to carefully balance individual rights under the Free Exercise Clause while ensuring it complies with its obligations as a public entity under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The District will continue to monitor its practices going forward in an effort to ensure continued compliance – and a safe, welcoming environment for all students.”
Now, it turns out the portrait of Jesus was not included in the FFRF’s complaint letter – but seeing how the district caved on the hymn and the intercession, it was pretty obvious Jesus didn’t stand a prayer.
Locals tell me the portrait was originally donated years ago as a memorial to a young man who had passed away.
So let’s review. The atheists fired off a threatening letter and Supt. Williams, along with the school board, turned tail and ran.
Don Hinkle, the director of public policy for the Missouri Baptist Convention, first alerted me to this story and he’s fired up.
Let’s just say that the good Baptists in Missouri don’t take kindly to out-of-state atheists stirring up a stink.
“The atheists just swoop in and with a simple letter written by a threatening lawyer – they win,” Hinkle told me. “They kick Christ and Christianity and the First Amendment right out of a public school.”
Outraged citizens are gathering Thursday night to determine how they can fight back and restore what was taken away.
Sadly, the atheists successfully got rid of Jesus, the hymn and the prayer. Say what you will, but the Freedom From Religion Foundation pulled off one heck of a hat-trick.
Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations. His latest book is "God Less America: Real Stories From the Front Lines of the Attack on Traditional Values." Follow Todd on Twitter @ToddStarnes and find him on Facebook.