Atheist Possibly Sprayed with Something Holy and Watery May 22, 2010

Atheist Possibly Sprayed with Something Holy and Watery

I’ve read three different versions of this story and still can’t quite piece together what happened.

But the gist of it is that a teacher at a high school (Schandra Tompkinsel Rodriguez) responded to a student’s claim that Haiti had a pact with Satan and that’s why God sent them the earthquake by admitting she was an atheist.

One student said something about her needing holy water, and lo and behold, two Christian teachers (Leslie Rainer and Djuna Robinson) showed up, grabbed some holy water from out of nowhere, and sprayed her with it. Even though some say they never sprayed it. Nevertheless, the two Christian teachers have been reassigned.

“There was never anything sprayed or sprinkled on anyone or anything, absolutely nothing,” [Robinson’s lawyer, Johnny L.] McCray [Jr.] explained. “This is a total fabrication being made against good teachers.”

He continued: “What did take place was done in front of a classroom full of students. I have interviewed a number of them, and they all say there was only a friendly discussion, no water. My client made a joking comment and held up a bottle of perfume from the doorway, and that was it. There are other issues that have motivated this complaint, which have nothing to do with any misconduct, and those facts will come out.”

McCray said that after the brief encounter ended, Rodriguez ate lunch with Rainer and Robinson, and there was never any further discussion about it until they were surprised with the April 12 notices from the school district.

So two teachers got fired for… nothing? A joke among friends? If it were true, how the hell did “Holy Water” end up in a public high school, anyway? And who cares if they did spray her with it? — “holy water” is no different from any other water. And why is the only picture of the two Christians together one in which they both look pissed off?

No one is talking to the media, including Rodriguez.

Which leads to the most useless news story you’ve ever seen.

If someone can tell me what I’m missing from this story, I would appreciate it.

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  • Bob Carlson

    From the article with the linked picture: “On March 11, Rodriguez was in her classroom discussing her disbelief in God and the Bible with students when the alleged incident took place.”

    Why would a teacher be discussing this with her students? if it was true, wouldn’t that be more serious grounds for reassignment than that of the two teachers accused of having brought a bottle of holy water to the class?

  • KeithLM

    Her atheism may have come up in the discussion, perhaps her students asked her about it, which in the context may have been ok. The other teachers are being accused of bullying, this is a case of where the majority was mocking the minority’s viewpoint. Hell yes they should be punished. The students need to be shown that you don’t mock someone for their beliefs, or lack thereof!

  • Richard Wade

    I have a feeling this is one of those cases where there is much less to the story than meets the eye.

    My client made a joking comment and held up a bottle of perfume from the doorway, and that was it.

    Ohh. I know what happened. It was “Jolie” eau de cologne by Chanel, $128 an ounce. Jolie, holy, a common enough mistake. If it had been real holy water, the atheist would have been burned as if by acid. I hate it when I’m sprayed with holy water, don’t you? Nowadays priests use a pump spray bottle like you get with Formula 409 instead of an aspergillum. Greater volume and range.

    If you see one of these, duck!
    holy water spray bottle

  • Matt

    Why would a teacher be discussing this with her students?

    The article says that the class was discussing Haiti and one of the students said that the Haiti earthquake happened because the Haitians made a pact with the devil long ago. Still not sure the teacher should have said anything, but the student initiated the religious conversation, and I can understand how hard it would be not to say something about such disgusting fundie rhetoric.

  • Michael

    If this was in a classroom setting, then what were the other two teachers doing there? At least one account suggests they came along while the discussion was in progress…that sounds like they barged into the class.

    If it wasn’t in a classroom setting, then this was an out-of-class discussion; those were some of the best bits of school for me…plenty of fertile discussion!

    And what would be the appropriate way to handle a student directly asking “Are you an atheist?”. What is wrong with saying “Yes”? If it were a Christian being asked that, it wouldn’t be a problem to reply “No”, would it? And vice versa? “Are you a Christian?” “Yes” wouldn’t bat any eyelids, I’m sure… Where are lines drawn appropriately?

  • Michael

    Matt: One of the commentors on sftimes purports to have better knowledge of the incident than the report – they claim one of the other teachers made the Haiti comment.

    Yet another commentor claims that Rodriguez has “done the same thing before” (‘spreading her atheism’)

    !_!

  • colin

    I hope some teachers will respond. What is the “officially” appropriate thing to do if a student makes such a religious claim?

    I don’t mean simply a student expressing a belief in God. I mean a strongly worded claim such as “Haiti made a pact with Satan”.

    Is this situation covered in a teacher’s training?

  • Blitzgal

    Ah, good old Christian love in action yet again. The truth about Haiti is that this country was forced to buy its way out of slavery to establish itself as a free independent country back in the early 1800’s. They literally mortgaged their future to the French (and other countries, including the United States), who they owed massive reparations that were being paid into the 1940’s! So the truth that Pat Robertson and these ignorant teachers need to admit is that imperial Europe (and the United States) is the only Devil that the Haitians made any sort of “pact” with. Any God who is willing to “punish” that with an earthquake more than two centuries later is no God that I have any interest in.

  • littlejohn

    Since Pat Robertson made the “pact with the devil” a public issue, I see no problem mentioning it in class.
    But a good teacher would have immediately steered the conversation elsewhere the second a student volunteered his personal religious views.
    My wife, a teacher, always cuts it off at that point and suggests such conversations belong in the home, not school.

  • Claudia

    @Michael, “spreading her atheism” could mean aknowledging she’s an atheist. Keep in mind that there is a staggering double standard in these things. A teacher could wear a big cross, lead the Christian Student’s club and talk about her church activities openly and still not be considered to be “spreading her Christianity”.

    Still, I think that the facts are anything but clear. If the women came in on the conversation, where did the “holy water” come from? Did they just happen to have it handy? What exactly was the teacher saying? If she just mentioned she was an atheist as a response to a student its one thing, but if she was “preaching” she’s out of line and also should be fired, regardless of what the other teachers did. It seems like something happened, but what is far from clear from this vantage point.

  • How absolutely childish. Obviously we weren’t there, so it’s hard to know what actually happened.

    I don’t know if I would have completely outed myself in front of my class, but I definitely would have stopped the conversation, sent the kid to their counselor and recommended sensitivity training for the obviously delusional kid. Or at least offered the history of Haiti and how Earthquakes happen.

    But it is true that Fundie teachers can wear their crosses, head up “Club Truth” (as it was called on my high school campus back in the late 1990s) and relate stories of experience from bible camp and church with no punishment or “takin’ to’s”. We also need to realize that you can’t ‘spread Atheism’… if you could reason with religious people, there would be no religious people. The classroom isn’t the place to try though.

    For all we know, she could have just told the student not everyone agrees with their view point, including herself, who is an Atheist…

  • In case anyone is interested, the website where Rodriguez is listed as an atheist and a ‘change agent’ is her TED profile: http://www.ted.com/profiles/view/id/261453

  • Colin:

    Is this situation covered in a teacher’s training?

    Not really. When I was in college to be a teacher, they simply told us to not discuss our political/religious beliefs with the students.

    And that’s basically what I tried to do when I was student teaching. A student had complained about not having Good Friday off when another school (a Catholic school) did.

    I explained that Good Friday is a religious holiday, and that a public school doesn’t necessarily have to recognize holidays.

    Another student then jumped in and tried to say that it was similar to Intelligent Design and Evolution and said that I.D. is just as credible as Evolution and should be taught in schools, too. I did a mental face palm, and was just like, “Okay, moving on…”

  • Claudia

    Another student then jumped in and tried to say that it was similar to Intelligent Design and Evolution and said that I.D. is just as credible as Evolution and should be taught in schools, too. I did a mental face palm, and was just like, “Okay, moving on…”

    I hope it wasn’t a science class. I understand the idea behind not having teachers share, from their positions of authority, political and religious views (even though it made me crazy, as a kid), but I think a teacher is fully within their right and in fact responsibility to say that no, ID is not the same as evolution. That isn’t a matter of opinion, its a matter of fact. Just as I’d expect a teacher to tell students there is no scientific evidence that one race is better than another if confronted with a racist student I would expect them to say there is no scientific evidence in favor of ID.

  • student’s claim that Haiti had a pact with Satan and that’s why God sent them the earthquake

    From a religious perspective, this is internally logical. I mean look at what God does to people in the Bible who disobey him or worship other Gods (especially in the Old testament). Hint: it involves lots of murder.

    of course, from a rational perspective/the right one, it’s psychotic.

  • I used to work with a woman who kept a small bottle of holy water with her at all times (she used it to get rid of demons when she saw them in her day to day life). Perhaps that’s why they had holy water with them.

  • Michael

    @Claudia You said: “@Michael, “spreading her atheism” could mean acknowledging she’s an atheist. Keep in mind that there is a staggering double standard in these things.”

    This is what I was trying to get at at the bottom of my comment.

    I agree that proselytizing by anyone in such a position of authority over the young is wrong.

    However, as we both note, the double standard would suggest that saying “I’m atheist” is proselytizing, while telling the child they will burn in hell if they don’t worship “our lord and saviour, jesus christ” (what about the christian deity, eh?) is not… 🙁

  • stogoe

    I hate it when I’m sprayed with holy water, don’t you?

    I’d be more upset with being sprayed by the perfume. Stuff drives me nuts.

  • Raven

    I was not in the classroom so everything I say is from published news reports; but it is on every news station down here because the two christian teachers keep calling press conferences to plead their side. They even have the Teabaggers behind them now.

    Anyway, as I understand it, the class was discussing the earthquake in Haiti when one student brought up Pat Robertson’s nonsense claim about Haiti being damned by God for making an ancient pact with the Devil. Ms. Rodriguez refuted that claim and tried to direct the conversation back on course. Another student then announced that Ms. Rodriguez is an atheist, to which she said yes.

    The two christian teachers came in at this point and started berating Ms. Rodriguez that she should not be telling her students that she is an atheist. Another student then made a wise-crack about spraying Rodriguez with holy water, so one of the christian teachers pulled out a bottle of perfume and “joked” that it was holy water. There are conflicting stories as to whether Rodriguez actually got sprayed or not, but imo that detail is immaterial.

    According to one person who claims to be a teacher at the school, the two christian teachers have a history of disliking Rodriguez. The “concerned teacher” actually revealed this by way of defending the two christian teachers, but it indicates to me that the two already had it in for Rodriguez before this incident.

    The simple fact is that the two teachers were suspending during an investigation as to whether they interupted another teacher’s classroom to belittle her in front of her students. And there is no denying that they did at least this much because they are proud of this fact. They freely admit it in every newscast!

    But in a typical failure to take responsibility for their own behavior, they are using the media to make this all about the atheist and whether or not they actually splashed her with holy water.

  • Looks like there is more to the story… “According to investigators, the caller claimed one of the teachers created mental anguish in Haitian students when they told the children to stand next to a trash can because they were trash.”

    source: http://www.wsvn.com/news/articles/local/21001338616373/