American group: No more religion in public, no matter how tangential
MIAMI--Today in federal court, Americans for Separation of State and Church/Religion and our American Culture filed suit to have the name of a south Florida high school changed, claiming it violated the Constitution's expressly mandated separation of church and state.
The high school in question is Felix Varela High School, which is named after a nineteenth century Cuban-American Catholic priest, who worked for religious tolerance, cooperation between English and Spanish speaking peoples, and broadening access to education. He was also a vigorous anti-slavery activist.
"Despite the admittedly noble things Felix Varela did during his lifetime," said A.S.S.C.R.A.C.'s lawyer Guadalupe Lourdes Martinez y Serra, "we cannot ignore the fact that he was a man of the cloth, and a Catholic priest at that. First, in a time of terrible scandal and crime committed by priests just like Varela, what sort of example do we set for our children--who, after all, are our future--by giving such honor to a man who chose such a disreputable line of work? Furthermore, even though religion is not taught in this public school, it nevertheless sends a chilling message of possible violation of the irrefutable boundry we find absolutely enshrined in the Constitution between church and state. Again, it is not enough that no religion is taught. Giving any public recognition to any religion -- no matter how tangentially -- shows favoritism to religion and strikes fear, even terrible anxiety into the hearts who have a different religion or no religion at all."
Principles from Horace Mann Elementary (named after an ardent Unitarian), Henry Flagler Elementary (named after a devout Presbyterian), and Martin Luther King Elementary all said they were delighted their schools had not been named in the suit. "Maybe it's because we're elementary schools," said Miami-Dade Public Schools spokesman Dr. E.S. Spein, LS.