A charter school in Las Vegas is leasing space from a local church, which is decorated with crosses, and the atheist group Freedom From Religion Foundation is not very happy about it.
Because Discovery Charter School is leasing a building from Mount Olive Lutheran Church, the attorneys for the Wisconsin-based FFRF argued it’s unconstitutional for the church to display its crosses, the Las Vegas Journal-Review reported.
“The appearance that the school endorses Christianity is overwhelming and undeniable,” Christopher Line, a legal fellow for the FFRF, wrote in a letter to the charter school. “If [Discovery] wishes to continue leasing from a religious organization, it must ensure that the school environment is constitutionally compliant.”
And it appears the atheist organization has gotten its way.
John Haynal, who was appointed by the State Public Charter School Authority to revitalize the once-struggling school, said his staff removed the two crosses inside the building as soon as the school started leasing the facility. He also noted that a banner welcoming congregants to the church will be removed by Oct. 1.
A banner promoting Discovery Charter School will take the Christian banner’s place.
The pastor of Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Tim Otto, told Faithwire the congregation agreed to allow the school to use their facility and had no problem removing the crosses inside the facility “obviously because it is a public school.”
“No problem there,” Otto added.
However, there is a cross fixed to the outside of the church building, which was present when the school started using the space, but now the FFRF also wants it taken down. Otto said the atheist group doesn’t want children to be “exposed” to the Christian symbol, even though it rarely — if ever — interferes with their experience.
“Neither the school itself nor the state of Nevada has asked or pressured us to take action,” the pastor said of the cross in question. “We will see what happens. Pray for us.”
While the FFRF didn’t disclose the complainant behind the group’s letter, Haynal said he believes it came from a person unhappy with changes that came after he was appointed in 2017 to run Discovery.
“I give my word to my public, to my parents and to my students that this will be a public school environment second to none,” Haynal said. “And only that.”