The Bossier Parish Schools in Louisiana are the subject of an ongoing lawsuit involving multiple acts of promoting Christianity. Coaches pray with students, pastors pray with athletes, choirs sing explicitly Christian worship music, teachers proselytize in the classroom, Creationism is part of the curriculum… and just last week, Benton High School agreed to allow a Christian gym to advertise its logo (with Bible verse) right on the football field.
You can see why church/state separation groups are concerned about what’s happening here. But everything I just mentioned, we know due to either local news reporting or first-hand accounts from students and parents in the schools. That’s why a claim made by Republican Rep. Mike Johnson yesterday makes absolutely no sense.
Johnson posted on his personal Facebook page that atheist groups were waging some sort of stealth campaign against the Bossier schools that involved hidden cameras and private investigators.
WARNING TO OUR FRIENDS IN BOSSIER SCHOOLS (Please share):
Last night we received very credible information that atheist litigation groups in CA have contacted private investigators in our area to try to hire them to obtain hidden video of Christian student groups and activities at Benton High School and potentially other Bossier Parish schools.
Unfortunately, this is to be expected now that these groups perceive the Bossier Parish School District as an ATM machine for attorney fee awards in what they believe will be easy Establishment Clause lawsuits. They are wrong, as our district is following the law — even as we fight vigorously to defend religious freedom. Sadly, Bossier schools will have to endure this legal harassment from the atheist groups for a while now, so everyone needs to be prepared.
This is what’s known in legal circles as “Republican bullshit.”
Let’s just run through a quick list of everything he got wrong…
- The biggest church/state separation groups (the kind that file federal lawsuits over this stuff) aren’t based in California. So which “atheist litigation groups” is he talking about? I have no clue.
- Why would atheists hire private investigators to find secrets… when some students are sharing their stories with these groups free of charge?
- Where are atheist groups getting the money for private investigators? I promise you they don’t have that kind of money. None of them.
- If the district is “following the law,” why would anyone be worried about a private investigator?
- If the district isn’t doing anything wrong, why would the district be considered an “ATM machine for attorney fee awards”? They don’t get money if they lose the case.
Johnson can’t name the atheist litigation groups because there aren’t any that’s doing the sort of thing he’s suggesting. I’ve worked with them. That’s not how they operate. The problem with promoting Christianity in schools isn’t that the schools do it privately; it’s that they do it right out in the open because they don’t think anyone will care they’re breaking the law. (Many videos of coaches praying with students, generally, come from parents recording it because it’s taking place right on the football field.)
Incidentally, the group involved in the most serious lawsuit against the Bossier schools denied everything he suggested:
“We absolutely have not” hired private investigators to spy on Bossier Parish students, Rob Boston, communications director for the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, said Tuesday.
The organization is based in Washington, D.C.
Johnson should apologize for spreading a lie meant to work up Christians who think following the law is a form of religious persecution.
His Democratic opponent, Ryan Trundle, should be shouting from the rooftops that church/state separation is good for both sides. (Trundle hasn’t said anything about this yet.)
It’s disgraceful that a sitting member of Congress would spread a hoax like this, even on his personal page, without a damn bit of evidence. But what else would you expect from the party of Donald Trump?
(Screenshot via YouTube. Thanks to Brian for the link)