Walker County responds to Freedom From Religion group - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Walker County responds to Freedom From Religion group

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WALKER COUNTY, GA (WRCB) -- Damon Raines, the superintendent of the Walker County School System, has responded to the latest letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

The group called into question the busing of students to churches for dinners, which they claimed violates the Constitution.

"In doing so the public school is endorsing the religious messages of that church. There is significant legal precedence on our side that validates this argument," said FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel.

In response, Raines says the organization has mischaracterized certain facts and
positions of the school system, and said the authority cited by the FFRF is not applicable to the current issue.

"The [school] System is not aware of any decision of the United States Supreme Court, 11th
Circuit Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court of Georgia that holds that the current practice
of various groups (secular and non-secular) providing meals to the football team and coaches
on Friday nights, without the involvement of any religious activities, is in violation of any
law," Raines wrote.

He also called into question the "puzzling and disturbing" analogies used in the organization's letter, and felt that it was used in a "derogatory connotation".

Here is the full text of the letter:

September 19, 2012

Mr. Andrew L. Seidel
Freedom From Religion Foundation
P. 0. Box 750
Madison, WI 53701

Dear Mr. Seidel:

This is in response to your most recent correspondence dated September 18,2012.

It appears in your correspondence that you continue to mischaracterize certain facts and positions of the System. Your analogies to other individuals and places of worship are puzzling and disturbing. It appears that you use the above in a derogatory connotation, and intimate that parents of the System's students and I have some bias or prejudice to certain people and religions. I honestly was taken aback by your analogies, and trust that was not your intention.

Concerning the pre-game meal issue, in my opinion, the authority cited by you is inapplicable to the current issue, does not stand for the broad propositions for which it is cited, and/or is not controlling. For instance, Doe v. Elmbrook Sch. Dist. is a case from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, and as you know, Georgia is in the 11th Circuit. Also, that case is very narrow in scope to the specific incident of that case. As you know, on page 3 of that opinion, the 7th Circuit stated "Before advancing the reasoning behind our decision, it is important to note the limited scope of this opinion. The ruling should not be construed as a broad statement about the propriety of governmental use of church-owned facilities. Rather, the holding is a narrowly focused one, as it must be ... " Also, the facts of that case are clearly distinguishable from the current situation with the System.

Again, the System is not aware of any decision of the United States Supreme Court, 11th Circuit Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court of Georgia that holds that the current practice of various groups (secular and non-secular) providing meals to the football team and coaches on Friday nights, without the involvement of any religious activities, is in violation of any law.

As to the other issue raised in your above letter regarding the Coach's appearance at the "Rally to Pray", that matter was addressed in my correspondence to you of September 13, 2012.

I believe that all of your complaints and concerns have been fully and adequately addressed. It appears to be somewhat obvious that we continue to disagree on the law and facts of various matters, but to continue to argue these issues, when I feel confident that the issues and complaints voiced by you have been taken seriously, promptly investigated and appropriately addressed, is not productive. Thus, the System considers these matters concluded, and I appreciate your cooperation regarding these issues.

Sincerely,
Damon Raines
Superintendent, Walker County School System

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