Florida county's only elementary school pulls Christian club after atheist group complains

Bible on a school desk in a classroom.
Bible on a school desk in a classroom. | Getty Images

The only elementary school in a rural Florida county removed a Christian club following a complaint from a Wisconsin-based atheist activist organization, prompting criticism from a religious liberty nonprofit.

Hamilton County Elementary School yanked its chapter of the North Central Florida Fellowship of Christian Athletes after the Freedom from Religion Foundation sent a letter accusing the school of violating the U.S. Constitution.

FFRF, which touts itself as the largest atheist legal group in the U.S. and has sued on behalf of The Satanic Temple regarding its after-school clubs, routinely sends letters to public schools demanding them to remove Christian groups, imagery or music.

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Citing a Facebook post showing a photo of the FCA chapter gathering at the school, FFRF Legal Fellow Sammi Lawrence wrote in her March 29 letter that the school was guilty of a "constitutional violation" by allowing the Christian club to happen.

While the 1984 Equal Access Act allows public high schools to permit a religious school, the law does not apply to elementary schools, Lawrence argued.

"Any claims that the Hamilton Elementary FCA club is 'student led' are at best naive and at worst dishonest," Lawrence said. "Young children cannot practically initiate, organize, and run an FCA club on their own, meaning adults are the ones truly behind the club."

Lawrence urged the school district to "investigate this matter," adding that the school "cannot allow Hamilton Elementary to violate students' First Amendment rights by organizing, leading, and promoting a religious club for elementary school children."

Meagan Logan, an attorney representing the school district, stated in her April 22 response to FRFF that the school's investigation found "a small group of fifth graders" had been participating in the FCA club, which was then disbanded as the group demanded.

"While these same students will be eligible to participate in FCA on the campus of Hamilton County High School in a few short months as six graders, in an effort to avoid any perception that such a gathering on the campus of Hamilton Elementary is being organized, promoted or endorsed by the District or its employees, the club has been dispersed," Logan wrote.

FFRF subsequently issued a statement praising the school for its decision to disband the "unconstitutional elementary school religious club."

"The Hamilton County School District ought to know better than allowing a religious group free access to students during the day," FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said in the release. "School districts exist to educate, not indoctrinate into religion."

Hamilton County School District did not respond to The Christian Post's request for comment.

Justin Butterfield, who serves as senior counsel for the religious liberty nonprofit First Liberty Institute, was critical of the school's response to FRFF.

"Banning students from having a religious club at a school while permitting other, secular clubs is a travesty that teaches children their faith is unwelcome and must be hidden," Butterfield said in a statement.

"The Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized that students' religious viewpoints are protected by the First Amendment and that students do not give up their free speech rights while at school — including elementary schools," Butterfield continued.

"When groups like FFRF pressure schools to ban religious student clubs like FCA while permitting secular clubs, those groups are pressuring schools to break the law," he added.

Jon Brown is a reporter for The Christian Post. Send news tips to

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