No Religious Tests Allowed
As Humanists, we were upset to learn that a Manatee County teacher, Mary Cropsey, is convinced that she is being persecuted by the school’s principal, Mike Rio, because she complained about being uncomfortable in what she felt was an inappropriate religious atmosphere in the public school. If true, these allegations represent a serious violation of the freedoms all Americans hold dear. That this alleged violation occurred in our own community is especially upsetting.While the actual details of her suspension are still uncertain, if Principal Mike Rio did suspend Cropsey for complaining about what she felt was inappropriate religious intimidation at the school, then he violated her constitutional rights as an American citizen.Article VI of our constitution provides that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” In 1961, the US Supreme Court made it clear that “when our Constitution was adopted, the desire to put the people 'securely beyond the reach' of religious test oaths brought about the inclusion in Article VI of that document.” And further that such religious test oaths violate our “freedom of belief and religion guaranteed by the First Amendment and protected by the Fourteenth Amendment from infringement by the States." (Torcaso v Watkins: 1961)As Humanists, we are dedicated to Democracy as an ethical form of government that allows for individual freedom while promoting personal responsibility. We are specifically concerned with the rights contained in the First Amendment as those form the core of our rights as individuals to speak, think and act in accordance with our own conscience. We are well aware of the repression that occurs when these rights are denied. Humanists have always stood up to such oppression by inspiring people to treat each other with decency, respect and compassion.
The school district of Manatee County has had problems respecting these basic American freedoms in the past. If Ms. Cropsey is correct, they still have problems respecting the true religious diversity of our community. As Humanists, we call on the school board to get to the bottom of this matter by ensuring they acquire complete and accurate information before making any decisions in this matter. If it is found that Ms. Cropsey’s rights were violated, we expect the school board to take the appropriate action to correct a religiously intolerant atmosphere that has apparently been festering in Parrish.Our nation was founded on ideals that we should all aspire to live up to here in Manatee County. As we enter one of the most crucial and divisive points in American history there is a need for us to find rational and compassionate solutions to our problems. We must start by respecting the rights and privacy of others. And in this case, that means no religious tests are allowed. Signed:
The Humanists of Florida Association works to promote freedom and democracy by inspiring people to use reason and science to create a more compassionate society. Our areas of focus are strengthening education at all levels in the state, ensuring widespread science literacy, promoting democracy, and creating communities that support and nurture Floridians who share our values. www.floridahumanist.org