A photo of Ryan Jayne

FFRF Action Fund’s Jayne denounces public school chaplain bill in Indiana op-ed 

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FFRF Action Fund Senior Policy Counsel Ryan D. Jayne is forewarning Hoosier State residents about a pending legislative measure that would bring religious chaplains into public schools.

“SB 50 would allow school administrators to employ, or approve as a volunteer, a school chaplain,’” Jayne says in a Fort Wayne Journal Gazette op-ed about legislation that the Indiana Senate has already approved. “This invites a host of constitutional problems that the bill’s limited safeguards come nowhere near curing. Most fundamentally, public schools are not allowed to promote religion over nonreligion, or to prefer one religion over others.” 

Jayne lays out further the various negative aspects of such a scheme if it is approved:

Imagine a school principal who attends a Baptist church hiring that church’s pastor to be a school chaplain — encouraging students to meet with him during the school day and paying the pastor to proselytize students during those meetings. Such a school would obviously be favoring religion over nonreligion, and favoring the principal’s own specific denomination over others. Students should never feel disfavored because they do not attend the same church as their principal or teacher.

This is just one of the bill’s several unavoidable constitutional blunders, which I outlined in recent testimony to an Indiana Senate committee. In short, if this bill passes it invites schools to launch headlong into costly, unwinnable lawsuits. … Those that invite chaplains to proselytize students during the school day can look forward to lawsuits from students and parents represented by groups such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Jayne then names the entities that are propelling the Indiana theocratic legislation: “A major driving force … is a group called the National School Chaplain Association. Its parent organization has stated that it places Christian chaplains in public schools with the specific aim of converting non-Christian students, in their words ‘reaching the largest unreached people group inside of the public schools around the world’ in order to ‘influence those in education until the saving grace of Jesus becomes well-known, and students develop a personal relationship with Him.’”

Jayne concludes: “SB 50 is not about protecting students, it’s about winning converts and forcing religion into public schools. The Indiana House should reject it out of hand, and those supporting the bill should reflect on the fact that religious liberty requires a secular government — including a secular public school system.”

You can read the full op-ed here.

This column is a part of the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s initiative — in conjunction with its lobbying arm — to engage with pertinent issues at the national and the state levels and spread the messages of freethought and nontheism to a mainstream audience.

FFRF Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization that develops and advocates for legislation, regulations and government programs to preserve the constitutional principle of separation between state and church. It also advocates for the rights and views of nonbelievers, endorses candidates for political office, and publicizes the views of elected officials concerning religious liberty issues.

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