, Ga. (Christian Examiner) – The Freedom from Religion Foundation has issued a stern warning letter to the Douglas County (Georgia) School System, claiming "serious constitutional violations" at one of the county's high schools.
According to the May 26 complaint, the parent of an atheist student alleges a science teacher, James Tillman, repeatedly inquired about why the student was non-religious, as well as if the students' parents were atheists. The incident reportedly happened during class, the letter from FFRF's attorney Madeline Ziegler said.
"About two weeks later, on May 13, Tillman gave the student two signed copies of a book Tillman had written called 'Are You Sure There is No God' inscribed with the message 'Be Blessed,'" the complain letter from Ziegler said.
The letter went on to say: "According to its description on Amazon.com, this book contains purported 'real accounts from real people who have meet [sic] or experienced God and Jesus first-hand,' and touts, 'If you have any doubt as to whether God is real, or if your faith is weak, all that will change after reading this book."
Tillman, the letter said, also discussed being a pastor and showed videos in the classroom of himself preaching. FFRF called the actions "unconstitutional proselytizing" that are imputed to his employer, the Douglas County (Georgia) School System.
It called for the school district to investigate his role in the "First Priority Club," a student-led religious organization on campus. FFRF said it doubted, given Tillman's past statements, that his role in the club was "non-participatory" as required by law.
"Tillman's imposition of his religious beliefs on a classroom of students is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion over nonreligion, and his overt attempt to convert our complainant's child to Christianity is inexcusable," Ziegler wrote. "If these allegations are confirmed, it is clear Mr. Tillman cannot teach without inserting his personal religious beliefs into class or trying to convert students, and he should be dismissed from his position."
Under current legal precedent, teachers are, in fact, allowed to discuss religion in a classroom if part of the curriculum, such as the impact of religion on American thought in the Colonial period or how Islamic religion motivated the conquest of North Africa and Europe.
Teachers may also examine the Bible as literature. They are not, according to the Supreme Court, allowed to convey to students personal opinions on religion or teach religious doctrine from a personal viewpoint.
Officials with the Douglas County School System did not respond to requests for comment from Christian Examiner.