Writing for Slate, science education activist Zach Kopplin reports on the brewing church-state controversy in Bossier Parish, Louisiana over the promotion of religion in public schools. A letter sent by the ACLU in September alleged a “pattern of religious proselytization” in Airline High School that includes faculty-led prayer, required student recitation of Bible verses, and the teaching of evolution in science classes.
As one Bossier teacher proudly remarked in an e-mail uncovered by Kopplin, “We pray at school functions and probably break the law all the time!!”
What’s even worse than using the public school system to promote Christianity are the allegations of intimidation and harassment directed at students who dare resist. Here is an excerpt from the article describing a Bible distribution event sponsored by the school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes:
One story, from 2011, that came up repeatedly was about the Fellowship of Christian Athletes distributing pocket Bibles to students during lunch. Allie was a sophomore at the time, and she told me, the “FCA gave students Bibles and encouraged people to pass them out to a sinful school because it was ‘our jobs as students’ to minster to the broken.’”
According to several students and the Shreveport Times, Bibles were thrown at kids who refused to accept them. [Airline Principal Jason] Rowland took no disciplinary action after the incident, saying he hadn’t had complaints.
Rowland refuses to change school policies or practices as a result of the ACLU letter, and, of course, claims that no student has complained about the use of Christianity in the school. But, really, why would they? As Kopplin writes, “Maybe the reason that Rowland has never had a complaint about his promotion of religion is not because people aren’t offended. It’s because they’re afraid.”
Read the whole thing. Public school officials should create a climate where students of all faiths feel welcome and full participants, and where students and parents trust that they can go to administrators with complaint of impropriety without fear.