A Bible club at a local elementary school in Tennessee has been suspended after a Wisconsin-based atheist group sent a letter of complaint to the school district, claiming that the club was unconstitutional.
First and second graders at Altruria Elementary School have been participating in the Bible club since last fall, but Bartlett City Schools (BCS) closed it down after it received a letter of complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF).
"This club, which functions as a Bible class, is unconstitutional because public schools may not provide religious instruction," FFRF attorney Rebecca Markert stated in the letter.
The FFRF urged BCS to investigate whether teachers and staff are participating in the club, which would be a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution.
One family expressed their disappointment that the Bible club was shut down because their two children were looking forward to joining it next year.
The Brown family contended that the club was not unconstitutional because it is an elective and it is held before school. They have contacted an attorney with the Center for Religious Expression to challenge the school district's decision.
"The message they are sending these kids is there is something terribly wrong with you wanting to meet and discuss the bible," said Nate Kellum, an attorney for the Center for Religious Expression, according to Local Memphis.
Kellum argued that the FFRF was wrong to assert that the club was unconstitutional because it is not required or endorsed by the school.
BCS has not commented on the FFRF's claim regarding the club's constitutionality, but it temporarily shut down the club after the school district found out that it did not have an outside sponsor.
"Per our understanding, religious clubs at elementary schools must be sponsored by an outside group. To our knowledge, the K-2 Bible Club at Altruria was not," the school district said in a statement.
"While this club has been postponed, we are working with the school to ensure the proper steps are taken to allow this club in the 2017-2018 school year," it added.
A Bible club for third through fifth graders at the school was allowed to continue because it has an outside sponsor.