A Colorado school district unlawfully promoted and helped fundraise for a Christian mission to Central America, The Denver Post reports.
Four years ago, the American Humanist Association and an unnamed parent of a child at Cougar Run Elementary school filed a lawsuit after Principle John Gutierrez and teachers sent flyers and emails advertising a fundraiser for a mission trip from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to Guatemala. The mother, known as "Jane Zoe" in the lawsuit, said her son felt "coerced into participating and contributing to this religious fundraiser."
U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson ruled this week that the Douglas County School District violated the First Amendment Establishment Clause, writing that the district's actions constituted "an excessive government entanglement with religion."
"Defendants supported an overtly Christian cause through financial donations, through sending emails and flyers to students' families, and through hosting the supply drive during school hours over the course of a school week."
"Indeed, the District itself described its relationship with the FCA and the supply drive as a 'partnership,'" she continued. "These actions and words had 'the effect of advancing ... religion,' ... As such, I find that the District fails under" the Lemon Test, which was established after the Supreme Court heard the case of Lemon v Kurtzman."
"Three ... tests may be gleaned from our cases," the Court wrote in 1971. "First, the statute must have a secular legislative purpose; second, its principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion; finally, the statute must not foster an excessive government entanglement with religion."
According to Jackson, "because the District fails on prongs two and three, summary judgment in Ms. Zoe's favor is appropriate."
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