“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
The First Amendment is first for a reason. It is the foundation for all others. It is what sets America apart from the rest of the world. There are very few other places on the planet where a nation’s citizens are free to speak out, about their government, about their leaders, about anything else without the possibility of censorship and even prison time or death. People came to America to enjoy all of these rights.
While America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, people of all religions and no religion have come to America with the assurance that they would be able to worship in the way they choose without fear of harassment. But what happens when you or your children actually do experience some form of persecution for what you believe or don’t believe?
Recently, a Louisiana mother sued the Webster Parish Louisiana School District for what has been called “unconstitutional and pervasive promotion of Christianity” in the district’s public schools. Some of the incidents alleged in the lawsuit filed by Christy Cole with assistance from the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of her daughter Kaylee include what Cole describes as “pressure” being put on her daughter to recite prayers and participate in various religious rituals. Cole went on to claim that Kaylee was “mocked by teachers for questioning religious doctrine they espoused”. Other instances include classmates mocking her for sitting during a prayer, a Christian rap artist invited to perform at assemblies and pep rallies where student attendance was mandatory, and teachers calling evolution a “fairy tale” and slamming a bible down on Kaylee Cole’s desk insisting that its contents be taken literally.
Not many will argue that the South is a place where people are Bible-believing Christians and go to church. Most Southerners will readily tell you that their faith is interwoven into their everyday lives. On the whole, Americans applaud this, and point to their God-given right mentioned in the Constitution to do so. But what about Kaylee Cole’s right to not be harassed and forced to participate in things that as a student enrolled in a public school she should not have to participate in?
America is full of religious schools. Catholic, Lutheran, non-Denominational and otherwise. If one enrolls their child in one of these schools prayer and religious studies are to be expected as part of the curriculum. Public schools are different. Yes most public schools dance on the line by putting on Christmas programs, but in large part those programs are of a secular nature. A teacher employed by a public school district has every right to believe in the biblical theory of creation and to scoff at evolution. What they do not have a right to do is to pick one over the other to teach when there may be plenty of students in their classroom who are being taught different values at home.
Included in the lawsuit is the fact that Kaylee Cole was raised in the Baptist and Methodist churches but currently considers herself an agnostic. Is this the grounds for the intimidation and harassment she now receives? Is it not the responsibility of the school district to make sure that the lines are not blurred when it comes to matters of religion or a perceived preference for one popping up in their schools?
Another big question to consider is how is this teaching kids to be considerate of those who are not like them? At some point the hope is that Little Johnny will graduate, and go out into the world where not everyone will think and believe the way the good folks of Webster Parish believe. How does Little Johnny go on to college and ultimately become employed and work with different kinds of people? The behavior that is apparently being condoned here is not teaching the students of Lakeside Junior/Senior High to work and play well with others throughout their lives.
Former Lakeside Principal, now the Superintendent of the district Johnny Rowland is reported to have said that he would not stop daily prayers in the school. It is alleged that he went on to say, “I will stop when someone makes me stop”.
That time may have come.
*Some information provided by the Shreveport Time