WARSAW — Several parents in Kosciusko County have reached out to Northern Indiana Atheists regarding what they view as unconstitutional religious “lessons” being shared during the Christmas season at Lincoln Elementary School.
Troy Moss, NIA president of the group, wrote a letter on Monday, Dec. 30, addressing the issue and sent it to Dr. David Hoffert, Warsaw Community Schools superintendent.
The letter addresses what it views as three specific violations of the constitutionally protected separation of church and state. The first incident involved a teacher reading a book to her second-grade classroom about a candy cane representing Jesus and about Christmas being about the birth of Christ. The second complaint involved another teacher who read a book titled “The Crippled Lamb,” which delivers a message about how God has a unique plan for everyone. The third complaint involved students watching a religious movie last year called “The Star,” a Christian cartoon about the birth of Jesus.
According to Moss, one parent complained about the incidents last year. This year, two parents have complained to the NIA. Since the letter was published publicly, another concerned parent has reached out to the organization.
“We were notified about the books on Dec. 20,” said Moss. “I’m guessing that’s when the teachers read the books to their classes and raised the red flags for the parents, one of which is an NIA member.”
InkFreeNews reached out to Dr. Hoffert via email on Monday afternoon, as well as by telephone on Tuesday, Dec. 31. An official statement from the school corporation regarding these incidents has not been released.
According to the letter, NIA is a nonprofit that fights violations involving the separation of church and state on a local level and defends the rights of atheists and other marginalized communities across Northern Indiana.
The letter states that public schools have a constitutional obligation to remain neutral toward religion and that “Lincoln Elementary’s promotion of Christmas’ religious aspects marginalizes non-Christian parents and students.”
“A public school, and especially an elementary school whose students are very young, should be eager to set an example of tolerance and inclusion instead of forcing children whose parents may not want them exposed to religious teachings to sit through books and movies that indoctrinate them with Christian teachings,” read the letter. “It is particularly inappropriate for the 24% of Americans who are not religious, including 38% of younger Americans.”
The letter also asks Hoffert to provide the NIA with a written statement at his earliest convenience detailing the steps the school district intends to take to remedy the complaints.
“We ask that Warsaw Schools protect the rights of conscience of all its students,” read the letter. “We request assurances that (teachers) will not teach or otherwise promote the religious aspects of Christmas or teach any other religious lessons in the future.”