In a letter dated April 11, the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation claimed the school's hosting of the "Spin-Tacular Basketball Show" in the gymnasium March 12 violates Supreme Court rulings that prohibit promotion of religion.
"After reviewing the Spin-Tacular Basketball Show's website it is clear that they are a pervasively sectarian religious organization. Given the overtly religious nature of this program, Lenoir City Schools must refrain from hosting these types of assemblies in the future," the letter said.
Chuck Cagle, attorney for Lenoir City Schools, said he had received the letter and was preparing a response. With regard to other accusations by the FFRF, including prayer at school board meetings, he said he has advised Lenoir City to follow all existing law.
"It's the same advice I've given all my clients. They have to follow the law," he said.
Cagle advises 77 school districts across the state, including the Tennessee School Board Association. He said he is not sure how many school boards in the state still offer prayers during school board meetings.
"Some have changed their practices, some haven't," he said.
For Loudon County activist James Raucci, the latest letter from the FFRF is just more proof that secular organizations have targeted his community.
"I don't think they will stop. They want to remove religion from our community," he said.
Raucci, who helped organize a rally in Loudon several weeks ago that drew more than 500 attendees in support of prayer, said another rally will be held 6 p.m. Thursday at Lenoir City Park.
The assembly is not affiliated with any church or organization but was brought about by the continued concerns of residents who believe prayer should remain a part of the Lenoir City school system, Raucci said.
The FFRF recently sent another letter regarding the use of the word "religion" on patches worn by police officers. The letter dated April 16 rejects arguments made by Lenoir City attorney James Scott in support of the right to use the word on the patches.
In a March 27 letter, Scott replied negatively to requests to remove the word from patches. The word religion does not specify any one type of religion, but reflects the values the officers are sworn to defend, Scott argued.
FFRF attorney Annie Laurie Gaylor cited the 1986 case of Friedman v. Board of County Commissioners of Bernalillo that determined use of religious imagery on a county seal or sheriff's department patches had the primary or principal effect of advancing religion and thus violated the Establishment Clause.
In concluding, the letter said, "We urge Lenoir City to remove the word religion from its police patches. Substituting wording more appropriate to the stated goal of ideological freedom. Freedom, liberty or protection would all be constitutional choices. Changing the voluntary patches to conform to constitutional dictates will be far less costly than defending a lawsuit."