The strange saga of a Louisiana school district and the Buddhist student its officials allegedly drove away in the name of Christianity came to an end last Friday. A federal court's order set new rules about how the school district must conduct itself and provided some financial relief for the student's family.As I said, I can't believe this is still an issue in the United States. In the 21st Century.
The tale's outlandish details -- a teacher telling her class that a student's religious beliefs were "stupid," the same teacher instructing her students that scientists advancing the theory of evolution were "stupid," pictures of Jesus hanging from the school walls -- caught national attention in January when the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of the student and his family.
But at its end, the district has admitted no culpability and the student is still attending a school 25 miles from his home. The district has pledged, though, to pay $4,000 for the family's past costs of driving their son to his new school -- and to provide bus service from now until he graduates from high school.
Here's what the ACLU asserted in its lawsuit:
At Negreet High School (“Negreet” or “NHS”) in Sabine Parish, Louisiana, however, school officials have a longstanding custom, policy, and practice of promoting and inculcating Christian beliefs by sponsoring religious activities, as well as conveying religious messages to students. For example, at Negreet, which serves students in kindergarten through twelfth grade, teachers ask students for professions of faith in class. At lea st one science teacher treats the Bible as scientific fact, telling students that the Big Bang never happened and that evolution is a “stupid” theory that “stupid people made up because they don’t want to believe in God.” Paintings of Jesus Christ, Bible verses, and Christian devotional phrases adorn the walls of many classrooms and hallways, including the main hallway leading out to the bus pick up area. A lighted, electronic marquee placed just outside the building scrolls Bible verses every day. And staff members routinely lead students in Christian prayer.And:
[L]earning of Negreet’s unlawful practices and treatment of their son, C.C.’s parents, Scott and Sharon Lane, rose to his defense , taking their concerns to Defendant Sara Ebarb, the Sabine Parish Superintendent of Schools. But she took no corrective action. On the contrary, she told the Lanes that “[t]his is the Bible Belt” and that they would simply have to accept that teachers would proselytize students. S he also asked whether C.C. had to be raised as a Buddhist and whether he could “change” his faith, and she suggested that C.C. transfer to another district school – more than 25 miles away where, in her words, “there are more Asians.” The day after meeting with the Lanes, the Superintendent sent a letter to Negreet Principal Gene Wright stating that she approved of Negreet’s official religious practices. Wright read the letter to the entire Negreet student body over the school’s public address system.Wait, wait. There was a SCIENCE TEST given by C.C.'s teacher where there was this "fill in the blank" question:
"ISN'T IT AMAZING WHAT THE _____________ HAS MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"The correct answer was (of course) "LORD" and C.C. got it wrong. On the next test as an answer to the exact same question C.C. answered "Lord Buddha" and got that one wrong as well.
Luckily, all this has been resolved - this is from the Consent Decree:
The District and School Board are permanently enjoined from permitting School Officials at any school within the School District to promote their personal religious beliefs to students in class or during or in conjunction with a School Event.And:
School Officials shall not denigrate any particular faith, or lack thereof, or single out any student for disfavor or criticism because of his or her particular faith or religious belief, or lack thereof.All while Neil deGrasse Tyson's still catching heat for telling scientific truth.
I've said it before. If we are a nation in decline this has to be one of the reasons: this a willful, stubborn, religiously-inspired anti-intellectual denial of science.
Eppur si muove