Sunday, December 07, 2014

Atheists Say Too Many Christians at Ohio School

The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) is waging war on a small rural town in central Ohio because their school refuses to censor Christians and ban their influence; citizens' fervor has surged as a result.  The out-of-state atheist lawyers have been writing threatening letters to the school for months, based on alleged complaints from anonymous people, about myriad Christians lurking at Licking Valley High School in Hanover, Ohio.
"[The FFRF] has really rallied a large group of people in our area. We have had a tremendous show of support. This [atheist] group has stirred up more emotions pertaining to God than I can. It has gotten Christians to stand up and voice their opinions."
-- Coach Randy Baughman, Licking Valley High School

"Have we investigated all FFRF complaints brought to date and documented those investigations, yes. Have we followed our policies, which are aligned to the case law, yes. Do I feel there are any grounds for a lawsuit, absolutely not."

-- Superintendent David Hile, who refuses to respond to FFRF
For background, click headlines below to read previous articles:

Atheists' Lawsuits Force Jesus Out of Ohio Schools

Atheists Strip Catholic University from Ohio Town Identity

Ohio Admits Wrong Against Christian Teacher

Ohio Councilman Won't Stop Praying in Jesus' Name

Atheists Say Ohio Religious Liberty Bill is Dangerous

News Video (WBNS-TV10 Columbus, OH) Debate Continues Over Religion In Licking Valley Schools

-- From "Is Licking Valley headed toward a lawsuit?" by Hannah Sparling, Newark (Ohio) Advocate 12/6/14

There are strong opinions on either side, and the debate remains fierce. In light of the foundation’s fourth and most recent complaint against Licking Valley schools — charging the district is endorsing Christianity and violating the Constitution . . .

The foundation sent its first letter to Licking Valley on Sept. 23, referencing Valley’s marching band T-shirts from this past season.

The shirts are black with the word “Salvation” in white, a reference to Pavel Tchesnokovs song “Salvation is Created.”

The second letter, on Sept. 30, alleged that football coach Randy Baughman might have participated in a student-led prayer.

The third, on Oct. 31, was in reference to an elementary school assembly hosted by the Jubilee Gang. The Jubilee Gang is a Christian group, but school officials said the assembly was about character education.

The fourth and latest letter, sent Nov. 26, alleged that the football team has been using a chaplain since 1996.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Anti-religion group files another complaint against Licking Valley schools" by Eric Lyttle, The Columbus Dispatch 12/3/14

A letter to Superintendent David Hile from the foundation’s lawyer, Rebecca Markert, said someone contacted the group to complain that “a youth pastor, Jeff Hawkins, is allowed access to the team players to ‘evangelize every Thursday after practice and every Friday before games.’”

Markert said Hawkins has been serving as chaplain to the football team since 1996, according to the unnamed accuser, who claimed to have witnessed Hawkins addressing the team before a Nov. 7 game against Marysville in which he told the players, “The Lord is on our side,” and “mentions salvation at least once,” Markert said.

Hile said he’s not aware of anyone serving the role of chaplain for the football team . . .

“[Randy Baughman is] a legendary football coach in the state of Ohio and he’s a good man,” said Hile. “He’s a Christian, no question about that, and he’s proud of it. But employees can’t participate in religious activities with students. It’s district policy. I don’t know that he violated that policy. We’ll have that conversation.”

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "FFRF condemns 'culture of religion' at Licking Valley" by Hannah Sparling, Newark (Ohio) Advocate 12/2/14

Rebecca Markert, the attorney who drafted all four letters, said it is unusual to get four complaints about a single district in such a short time frame. Markert said the Valley complaints have come from at least three different individuals, and the foundation has also gotten supportive letters from several others.

Hile confirmed he has not responded to the foundation's letters and does not plan to. His job is to investigate any complaints and — if there is a problem — fix it, he said.

His main problem with the situation is none of the complainants came to him first, he said.

"It would be courteous of that individual or that group of individuals to have this conversation with me before they jump to a group that's out of Wisconsin," he said.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Prayer planned after Licking Valley football game" by Hannah Sparling, Newark (Ohio) Advocate 10/8/14

Community members are planning a public prayer at Friday night's football game — a message to a nontheist group that sent two recent letters to Licking Valley Local Schools regarding separation of church and state.

Friday night, community members are planning to meet at midfield to pray following the game between Licking Valley and Watkins Memorial High School. The invitation is open to players and fans from both sides, said Melanie Fitzgerald-Klein, the Newark resident helping organize the event.

"It's just a peaceful demonstration, just to say, 'You can send your letters, but there's a band of Christians that love the Lord and support their boys," Fitzgerald-Klein said. "... We just feel that since our coaches have been told they can't be on the field when the boys pray anymore, that our fans want to be."

Markert told The Advocate in September that the primary goal is to rectify any constitutional violations and prevent them recurring. If the district refuses to cooperate, litigation may be an option, she said.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Football prayer photo prompts new complaint against Licking Valley High School" by Eric Lyttle, The Columbus Dispatch 10/2/14

The [FFRF] letter came with a copy of a photo taken on July 27, 2013, and pulled from the football team’s Facebook page that showed a player leading his team in prayer. That in itself is not a constitutional violation, nor a violation of district policy.

However, standing behind the team in the photo, with heads bowed, are three coaches.

Hile agreed that, if the photo was accurate, it displayed a possible violation of federal law and the district’s policy. The policy says, “District staff members shall not use prayer, religious readings or religious symbols as a devotional exercise or in an act of worship or celebration.”

“I didn’t respond to their last letter, which I’m sure made them mad,” Hile said. “I assume they’re scouring our websites now looking for anything they can find.”

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Band's 'Salvation' shirts prompt complaint" by Eric Lyttle, The Columbus Dispatch 9/26/14

The black T-shirts have the word “Salvation” printed across the chest in white letters. The shirts, said Licking Valley Superintendent David Hile, are in support of the band’s featured performance this year of Salvation is Created composed by Pavel Tchesnokov in 1912.

The shirts, as well as the featured musical performance, promote a religious theme in violation of the U.S. Constitution, according to the letter written by foundation attorney Rebecca S. Markert.

“The word ‘salvation’ has various meanings. It doesn’t have to be religious. It could mean 'deliverance from harm.' That’s the great thing about the English language,” Hile said.

Hile said he’s not worried about a . . . lawsuit, and would readily defend the band’s performance and attire in court if needed.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Valley coach says no complaints about prayer" by Henry S. Conte and Kurt Snyder, Newark (Ohio) Advocate 12/6/14

Though Jeff Hawkins, the man listed in the [most recent FFRF] letter, is both a youth minister and involved with the team — "one of our many, many volunteers who help out on Friday nights" — [Coach] Baughman said he was not known as a team chaplain, but he also would not get into specifics, deferring to Superintendent Dave Hile.

The coach, though, did say the most disappointing thing is that, if someone was uncomfortable about anything he and the team were doing, he was never once approached about it.

"If someone out there has a problem, they can come and talk to us. We wish they would come to the source. I am a face-to-face kind of guy," Baughman said.

The coach, not known to hide his religious beliefs, also said he does not outwardly share that he is a Christian unless he is asked.

"How I live my life speaks more volume than what I tell people my beliefs are," Baughman said.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

Also read Christian Free Speech Censored at Ohio College

And read Ohio School Bans 'Jesus Homophobe' T-shirt, Gays Sue & Win, School Pays $20,000