Local school district makes changes after religious complaints

Posted at 4:18 AM, Feb 01, 2018

HUDSONVILLE, Mich. (AP) — A western Michigan school district will hold a staff workshop regarding religious discussions in school after a civil rights group complained that some teachers’ practices violated the Constitution.

Hudsonville Public Schools plans to hold the workshop in March about the Constitution’s Establishment Clause and how public schools can’t endorse or sponsor religious activities, The Grand Rapids Press reported .

Handouts are also being created to show how the clause applies to school employees and outline when actions are in violation, Assistant Superintendent Scott Smith said.

“We want to make sure our actions and programs are in line with school board policy and the U.S. Constitution,” Smith said. “Simultaneously, we want to make sure we are honoring and respecting the rights of our students and staffs.”

The move comes after the Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists complained in November about teachers’ faith-based activities.

The association raised concerns about Baldwin Street Middle School teacher Jeff Henderson, saying he was holding Bible study in his classroom before school, engaging in discussions about faith during school hours and collecting prayer requests in the classroom.

Henderson, who is youth ministry director at his church, was instructed to stop collecting prayer requests and engaging in religious discussions during school hours. But the Bible study wasn’t found to be in violation of the Establishment clause because it occurred before school hours.

The association also complained about Alward Elementary teacher Christopher Karel, who was meeting with students for lunchtime Bible studies. The district ended such discussions in November.