In one Oklahoma school district, administrators are not even subtle about forcing Christianity on children.
The American Humanist Association just filed a federal lawsuit against the Maryetta Public Schools (and several administrators) over a constitutional violation, and the details are just mind-blowing. You won’t believe how long this district has been able to get away with such blatant proselytizing.
The case involves a special program in the school district called — wait for it — “Missionaries,” in which several Christian missionaries come into the classrooms once a month, during school hours, to preach Christianity for 30 or 60 minutes to a captive audience of kids as young as pre-kindergarten.
What if you don’t want your child to attend? Too damn bad. There are no alternatives… not that parents even know what’s going on since they aren’t given permission slips, either.
Nor is there any attempt to suggest the program is distinct from the district itself. The program occurs in normal classrooms, sometimes as a substitute for regular classes, and the adults who normally assist teachers with younger kids are present during these programs. Administrators also promote the program via emails and announcements.
What goes on during these programs? The lawsuit explains:
The Missionaries class consists of singing songs and playing games with a captive student audience. The classes promote Christianity, Jesus, and god-belief.
Bibles have also been distributed to prekindergarten students by the missionaries during school hours without parental consent.
The School District has described the Missionaries class as “character education”… No non-Christian “missionaries” have presented as part of the School District’s Missionaries program.
Can you imagine the national outcry if Muslims (or Satanists!) did what Christians are doing here…?
The only reason we even know this egregious behavior is happening is because two atheist parents figured it out after their five-year-old daughter told them the details.
Here they are (anonymous, in the lawsuit) telling their story:
On or about September 10, 2019, [mother] Jane picked [daughter] Jill up from school. After riding in the car for a short while, Jill asked, “Mom, is god real?” When Jane asked Jill what it was that prompted her to ask such a question, Jill said that, “these people came and sang songs and told us a story about god and how he’s real”…
Jill also told Jane that Jill had stated aloud her belief that god is not real. Jill told her mother that Defendant [Rickey] Christie “told me not to say that or I’d get in trouble.”
Rickey Christie, a P.E. teacher named in the lawsuit, apparently “corrected” that little girl to tell her God is real. The girl later just started saying she believed in God because she knew that’s what the adults wanted to hear. But she wasn’t happy about it. Her parents later said that their daughter’s “cheerful temperament would noticeably degrade” whenever the missionaries came to visit.
Even when they signed a note opting her out of the Christian preaching class — an option the school never gave to other parents — the school made the girl attend anyway.
That’s why the AHA is now filing a lawsuit on their behalf.
“Maryetta school officials have brazenly violated the First Amendment rights of their students,” said Monica Miller, Legal Director and Senior Counsel of the AHA.
“No school official could reasonably believe that it is constitutional to subject impressionable prekindergarten students to overt Christian proselytization in a class called ‘Missionaries’ led by church officials, held during school hours and with no option to leave,” Miller explained.
Miller added: “The fact that school officials have run this ‘Missionaries’ program for decades, together with the fact that they have forced children as young as four to participate and have done so without parental consent, makes this case appropriate for punitive damages.”
This is appalling behavior that has gone on for too long, in part, perhaps, because no one knew it was wrong or no one wanted to rock the boat. Either way, it needs to end, and the district must pay the price for allowing it to happen. There’s no conceivable way this sort of behavior can be legal in a public school system.
(Image via Shutterstock)