Moriarty, NMSeptember 24, 2020—Today, the church/state watchdog American Atheists sent the Moriarty-Edgewood School District (MESD) an advisory letter, warning that its online classes during the COVID-19 pandemic include unconstitutional religious content.

“The materials documented by our complainants explicitly promote elements of Christian theology and have no place in a public school curriculum. By advancing a particular religious viewpoint, MESD is violating the Establishment and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, article II, section 11 of the Constitution of the State of New Mexico, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” warns American Atheists’ letter.

“The Moriarty-Edgewood School District must protect everyone’s religious freedom—not subject children to unwanted religious indoctrination,” said Geoffrey Blackwell, Litigation Counsel for American Atheists, who submitted the letter to MESD.

Materials provided by members of the MESD community show that, for at least some classes and grade levels, the virtual instruction offered by education provider, Edgenuity, contains explicitly religious content. An entire module of Third Grade Social Studies teaches Bible stories, including Joseph of the Many-Colored Coat and the Tower of Babel, as social studies. One lesson even instructs students to make plant, animal, and human “forms” out of clay and “think about how you feel when you create, and then destroy, each of your forms. How does it feel to bring form out of nothing? How does it feel to create something out of a lump?”

In an email to American Atheists, Edgenuity recognized that this material is not appropriate and indicated it is looking into how to correct the problem with a subcontractor. In the meantime, these class materials are still being provided to public school children.

“If MESD does not immediately take steps to end this ongoing constitutional violation and remedy the harms it’s inflicted on families, we will take all legal actions necessary. Nothing is off the table,” said Blackwell.

Since launching an investigation in early September, American Atheists has responded to similar complaints in Cincinnati and the Detroit suburbs. The church/state separation watchdog also successfully helped resolve a situation in Kansas, where the school district informed students that they did not need to complete the “ancient Hebrew culture” module of the social studies class.

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