Members of Mississippi’s Pinelake Baptist Church recently shared the message of finding hope in Jesus Christ. They even played a video to really bring home that message:
In the video, two young men were interviewed who had once led “troubled” lives. To find hope, the men described various behaviors such as turning to drugs, sex, cutting, suicide, and the like. They then explained how turning to Jesus Christ solved their problems and recommended that other people turn to Jesus Christ as well.
Sounds perfectly normal for a church gathering.
The problem is that the gathering took place at Northwest Rankin High School, a public school.
During the school day.
And the principal even made it clear all seniors had to attend the assembly.
Even when students tried to leave the Performing Arts Building so they wouldn’t have to listen to the preaching, “faculty stood near the exit door, preventing students from leaving.”
It’s about as unconstitutional as you can get.
Thankfully, the Appignani Humanist Legal Center (of the American Humanist Association) found out about it and they’re on the case (PDF):
The event promoted by this school was conducted during class-time and was mandated by the principal. It has hard to imagine a more blatant violation of the Establishment Clause than the one complained of herein. The law prohibiting this type of endorsement and coercion is well-settled. As such, not only will the school, in its official capacity, be liable for this constitutional infringement…, but the school officials responsible for the event will be personally liable too, in their individual capacities.
As of now, the AHA’s attorneys are still awaiting a reply from school administrators. Though it’s hard to see how they could possibly defend such a blatant disregard of the students’ rights.
The best thing for them to do would be to apologize and make a promise in writing that it will never happen again. If the administrators had that good sense, though, this never would have happened in the first place.
Odds are they’ll just try to justify the proselytizing and wind up with a foot in their mouth.