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ACLU Releases Video, Legal Bulletin on Religion in Public Schools;
Intensifies Campaign to Counter Misleading Assertions by Far Right
For IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 12, 1993
NEW YORK -- Intensifying its national campaign to preserve religious
liberty in America, the American Civil Liberties Union today distributed
a new legal bulletin to more than 16,000 school superintendents around
the country and announced the release of a new 35-minute video titled
"America's Constitutional Heritage: Religion and Our Public Schools."
The video, the first ever produced by the ACLU, is a direct response
to a video, "America's Godly Heritage," being distributed by several
organizations on the far right. That video, which was produced by
Wallbuilders, a Texas company, argues that the United States was founded
to be a Christian nation.
Ira Glasser, ACLU Executive Director, said the far right's increased
attempts should deeply concern all Americans who care about religious
freedom. "In many parts of the country, school administrators and school
board members are coming under increasingly intense pressure from
organized groups to sacrifice the nation's commitment to religious
liberty," he said. "Our legal bulletin and video are designed to give
administrators and parents the information they need to make the best
possible choices for their schools, their children and their
The Legal Bulletin, "The Establishment Clause and Public Schools,"
was prepared by the ACLU's Legal staff to help school administrators who
are being pressured to permit graduation prayer, Bible distribution in
public schools, displays of religious symbols and observance of religious
holidays. The Bulletin also clarifies religious groups' right to equal
access to schools and the free speech rights of religious groups and
The video -- narrated by Rev. W.W. Finlator, the former pastor of
Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C. -- features the stories of
several courageous families who challenged religious practices in their
public schools as well as additional information from a renowned
constitutional law scholar and Jonathan Kozol, the author of the landmark
book, Savage Inequalities.
In the video's introductory section, Rev. Finlator expresses
agreement with many Americans who are concerned about the crisis of values
in our society, and concurs with those who believe that the best way to
strengthen values in our country is to reach out to the next generation.
But he warns against allowing the public schools to usurp what has long
been a parental right and responsibility:
"Some people, however, want to take that right and responsibility
away from parents," he says. "They want to bring religion to our children
in another way. Not through parents at home, or in church, but through the
As a companion to the video, the ACLU will soon release a new
installment in its popular educational briefing series titled "Ask Sybil
Liberty." The new "briefer" will focus on a student's right to religious
"We recognize that the First Amendment's protections for religion in
America are not widely understood," Glasser said. "This has led to the
mistaken belief that the Founder's demand for separation of church and
state were motivated by hostility toward religion, when, in fact, they
sought to guarantee true religious liberty."
The bulletin and video are part of the ACLU's continuing effort to
combat misleading information being distributed by Pat Robertson's
American Center for Law and Justice. Robertson's group and others on the
far right have mailed several letters to school administrators around the
country arguing that certain religious practices, including graduation
prayer, are constitutionally permissible.
In his letter to school superintendents, the ACLU's Glasser said that
he recognizes that school administrators are confronting difficult
decisions involving the complex issues that relate to religion and the
Urging superintendents and other school leaders to contact the ACLU
if they need additional assistance, Glasser says, "an environment in our
public schools that is hospitable to religious diversity, and that fosters
respect for the Constitution, is in the best interest of us all."
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