The ACLU of the state of Lousiana has filed a suit against the Sabine Parish School Board on behalf of a Buddhist family who says that their son suffered from racial discrimination at his school. The boy’s teacher told other students in his class that Buddhists were “stupid” and encouraged the other children to laugh at him.
The person figuring most prominently in the suit is Negreet High School teacher Rita Roark. Roark teaches students that evolution is “impossible” and that the Bible is “one hundred percent true.”
Scott Lane, the step-father of the boy “C.C.”, who has been a Buddhist all his life, told the ACLU this about his son’s experience at the Louisiana high school:
[box type=”shadow”]On a science test, their teacher had included a fill-in-the-blank question: “ISN’T IT AMAZING WHAT THE _____________ HAS MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” When my stepson didn’t know the answer (“Lord”), she belittled him in front of the entire class. When he wrote in “Lord Buddha” on another exam, she marked it wrong. As she was returning that exam to students, one student proclaimed aloud that “people are stupid if they think God is not real.” In response, my stepson’s teacher agreed, telling the class, “Yes! That is right! I had a student miss that on his test.” The entire class broke out in laughter at my stepson.
The same teacher also told our children that the Bible is “100 percent true,” that the Earth was created by God 6,000 years ago, and that evolution is “impossible” and a “stupid theory made up by stupid people who don’t want to believe in God.” She’s also told the class that Buddhism is “stupid.”
We were shocked, but we quickly learned from our children that these types of activities were not unusual. School officials were repeatedly imposing their religious beliefs on students in myriad ways. For example:
- When we went to the school to meet with the principal, we saw a large picture of Jesus over the school’s main doors, a Bible verse on the school’s electronic marquee, and numerous religious posters and pictures on the walls. Religious images and messages are displayed throughout the school, in fact.
- We learned from our children that official prayers, typically led by the principal or teachers, are routinely incorporated into class and school events like assemblies, and sporting events. The school even requires students to attend “See You at the Pole” each year, where they must take part in prayer and worship.
- We discovered that school officials were distributing religious literature to students. For example, one of our other son’s teachers passed out copies of a book from the “Truth For Youth” program, a revivalist ministry. The book included the entire New Testament of the Bible as well as cartoons that denounce evolution and trumpet the evils of birth control, premarital sex, rock music, alcohol, pornography, homosexuality, sorcery, and witchcraft.[/box]
When the parents decided to meet with the school’s superintendent to try to get the problem addressed, they were met with laconic disinterest. The superintendent told the parents that if he was not offended by his pedicurist’s statue of Buddha then the parents should not be offended by religious iconography in the high school. He then suggested that the parents consider transferring the boy to a school where there were more “Asians”. They agreed, only to find out that the culture of religious bullying extended to other area schools as well.
The Lanes concluded in their statement:
[box type=”shadow”]”We don’t begrudge others their right to their Christian faith. But that’s why the separation of church and state is so important: It gives us all the breathing room and freedom to believe what we want to believe and to practice those beliefs without undue influence or interference by the government. Forcing your beliefs on another is not freedom; it is oppression.
And when official religious practices are this rampant and pervasive, like they are in Sabine Parish public schools, it is tantamount to religious discrimination. It excludes children and families of minority faiths and beliefs and creates a hostile environment for them. It undermines everyone’s religious freedom. I see that now.”[/box]