School board administrators in Polk County, Florida have had a hard time keeping their religion out of the public schools. Last spring, a God-themed banner was placed outside one of its elementary schools, and last fall a Polk County citizen complained of persistent opening prayers at school board meetings dominated by Christian clergy and references to Jesus. When legal challenges to the prayers were raised, the Polk County school board decided to make the Christian prayers unofficial and put them in the same room but not make them part of the official meeting. But when a pair of atheists engaged in conversation during the school board’s non official prayers before a subsequent meeting, the chair of the board nonetheless had one of the atheists arrested and dragged out of the room, despite that atheist making the point that the meeting hadn’t been gaveled into session. The other atheist was banned from returning to future meetings. Then members of the school board contacted Christian clergy and arranged for the next meeting to be packed with churchgoers waving Bibles. After all that, the chair of the school board had her husband, the town mayor, arrange the arrest of the other atheist after the fact for allegedly using the letters “Esq.” after her name, even though that is not a crime in Florida.
Using the power of government to push one’s Christian religion and arrest atheists isn’t just tacky. It’s downright abusive.