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CPS hires legal group

Posted: January 18, 2013 - 3:26pm

Liberty Institute, a nonprofit legal group, will evaluate the Conway Public Schools' equal-access policies on visitations during school lunches for free, superintendent Greg Murry said Friday.

The district reached out Friday to Liberty Institute, a nonprofit organization "dedicated to restoring and defending religious liberty across America," according to a news release and General Council Jeff Mateer. The district's move comes after the district received letter, dated Oct. 26, from Freedom From Religion Foundation, a nonprofit group that advocates for separation of state and church nationwide.

Liberty Institute will also be speak for the district on this issue from now on, Murry and Mateer said. Murry referred questions to Liberty Institute when asked how he decided to hire the group.

"What we do is advise local governments, school districts, counties, even states on religious liberty matters," Mateer said. "That's what we are here for is to help people like Conway Public Schools."

Mateer said in a news release the district retained the institute "to conduct an investigation of the issues regarding equal access for visitors to the school and make a report and recommendation to the district on or before Feb. 12, 2013." The group will make a report that will go first to the superintendent and then the school board, he said.

The investigation is needed, officials have said, because the Foundation sent a "threatening" letter in October that said the district is in “constitutional violation” by allowing youth ministers to visit students who are in their church during lunchtime. The Foundation sends thousands of similar letters and is not always correct about what is legal, Mateer said. Schools can be overwhelmed, he said.

Murry has said he wants to make sure the district is within the law. The district has told ministers and others not to visit schoolchildren during lunch. The suspension is temporary, Murry said previously.

 "The district respects the religious liberty of all students and citizens and will work diligently to follow the Constitution and take the appropriate steps necessary to investigate this issue further and follow the law," Murry said in the release.

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Earlier version:

Liberty Institute, a nonprofit legal group, will assist Conway Public Schools in evaluating the district's equal access policies on visitations during school lunches for free.

The move to hire outside help from Liberty Institute comes after the district received a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a nonprofit group that advocates for separation of church and state nationwide.

Liberty Institute will also be the spokespersons for the district on this issue from now on, superintendent Greg Murry said.

According to a news release Friday, the institute is "dedicated to restoring and defending religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches and throughout the public arena."

Murry referred questions to the group when asked how he decided to hire Liberty Institute.

Jeff Mateer, General Counsel for the group, said the district retained the institute "to conduct an investigation of the issues regarding equal access for visitors to the school and make a report and recommendation to the district on or before Feb. 12, 2013."

That investigation is needed, officials have said, because the Foundation sent a "threatening" letter in October that said the district is in “constitutional violation” by allowing youth ministers to visit students who are in their church during lunchtime.

The district has since told ministers and others not to visit schoolchildren during lunch.

"The district respects the religious liberty of all students and citizens and will work diligently to follow the Constitution and take the appropriate steps necessary to investigate this issue further and follow the law," Murry said in the release.

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ARVoiceofLogic
5446
Points
ARVoiceofLogic 01/18/13 - 03:45 pm
15
3
I wonder

how a pro-religion group will view religious leaders visiting a school?

reader
18716
Points
reader 01/18/13 - 06:57 pm
12
3
So the district hires a religion defense organization

whose home page begins with the phrase "Your gift now will help us be prepared to fight back against the attacks on religious liberty by the ACLU, Freedom from Religion Foundation and other anti-religious groups." among others which rotate including one called their "Angela Project" our nationwide effort to stop the widespread assault of religious freedom in public schools. Learn how you can get your "Know Your Religious Rights Kit."

Hiring this organization itself may be a violation of separation of church and state. The organization says it performs all work, pro-bono so they may be able to get away with it.

However, what business is it of a public school to receive free services from an obviously biased group, bent on pushing religion in school. If the so called "pastors" and "religious visitors" to the schools decided to use the services of this organization, I would have no complaint, but the decision of the school administration to retain their services is distressing. I'll have to up my donations to the ACLU and begin donating to the Freedom From Religion group.

Reaganesque
4424
Points
Reaganesque 01/18/13 - 07:07 pm
2
9
Well................

A violation of Church and state? Interesting.

notthisboy
1728
Points
notthisboy 01/18/13 - 08:57 pm
4
9
I have asked before and I will ask again

Where in the Constitution does it say "separation of church and state"? Folks it is not there..............It does however prohibit the government from prescribing a religion for us.

I find it strange that it is OK for our schools to teach our children that in the beginning there was nothing and nothing blew up and created the heavens and earth then the monkeys turned into people. Think about that one, science will tell you that nothing will not explode.

But there is a question about clergy visiting with their members at school.

And just for the record, there are no monkeys in my family tree. Scientific double speak on their part.

Leroy Jenkins
145
Points
Leroy Jenkins 01/21/13 - 09:54 am
2
1
Wow.

Just wow.

notthisboy
1728
Points
notthisboy 01/18/13 - 08:59 pm
4
10
Being a taxpayer

Being a taxpayer in the city I feel it is very appropriate for the school to use this organization in light of the fact that the complaint was made by an atheistic organization.

lachowsj
5465
Points
lachowsj 01/19/13 - 10:39 am
7
2
Re: being a taxpayer

notthisboy, I'm sure you would likewise be happy to see all church property taxed the same as other commercial property, lessening the tax burden on you and other individuals.

It's funny that you say in an earlier comment that there is nothing in the constitution separating church and state, then proceed in the next phrase to quote the passage that does that very thing. If you can't understand how allowing a particular Christian group access to children in a public school in effect establishes a certain religion I can't explain it to you.

Reaganesque
4424
Points
Reaganesque 01/19/13 - 10:59 am
3
8
Well..............

I'm still missing something.....They were visiting members, right? You probably equate a Bible with a gun.

notthisboy
1728
Points
notthisboy 01/19/13 - 02:52 pm
3
5
Ha

Twist your words if you will but I did not contridict myself. Are you related to Quill.

reader
18716
Points
reader 01/18/13 - 09:09 pm
9
2
The simplest solution to the entire debate

rather than go through a possibly lengthy and costly legal and emotional battle would be for the school to allow any student, with parental permission, who wishes to meet with their religious adviser(s) during school hours to have a pass allowing them to leave the school and meet with the adviser(s) of their choice. This time would count against their attendance record but would not violate the church / state separation.

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