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Since last October, when he officially became the superintendent of the Richland-Bean Blossom Community School Corporation In Monroe County, Indiana; Dr. Jerry Sanders is using his public position to promote his faith. The American Humanist Association (AHA) is trying to warn him against this unconstitutional practice after he wrote a letter to local pastors on school letterhead encouraging them to pray for him, quoting scripture and attributing his new role to God's Will. Attorneys at the American Humanist Association (AHA) responded by sending a warning letter to Dr. Jerry Sanders.
“A school superintendent, acting in his official capacity and writing on school letterhead, should not be promoting his personal religious beliefs and encouraging religious practices,” explains David Niose, legal director at the AHA. “This is insensitive to religious minorities and offensive to the separation of church and state...This violation of the Establishment Clause, and a blatant show of disrespect to the many non-Christian residents of the school district,” notes American Humanist Association Executive Director Roy Speckhardt, according to Patheos.
Unconstitutional abuse of public school position for religious purposes provoked a reaction from The American Humanist Association which, according to its website (americanhumanist.org), works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other nontheistic Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming worldview of humanism, which — without beliefs in gods or other supernatural forces — encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.
On the other hand the superintendent himself doesn’t think it’s a big deal at all. As Patheos reports, he told a local news outlet this was nothing more than a form of community outreach. “The idea of sending a letter to the churches was basically part of plan in reaching out to different community organizations,” Sanders says. Sanders says the church letter was just the beginning of his marketing plan for the school, which also includes connecting with the local chamber of commerce and real estate agencies. His only regret, he said, was using school letterhead.
It sounds like Sanders either doesn’t understand or he doesn’t respect church/state separation as a constitutional norm. It is certain that Sanders would never have sent the same letter to the local chamber of commerce or to local Muslim leaders and ask them to pray for him. Connecting with local organizations would probably be a good move for the school; but should it be done on a religious basis with the school trying to connect with local organizations through other fields which are not opposing to the constitution?