Religious Freedom Wins for Parents and Students in Louisiana

By Charles S. Garabedian

Many of us hear from time to time about public schools alleged to be functioning in many ways as religious schools in violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. In 2014, the ACLU of Louisiana filed a lawsuit against the public school system in Sabine Parish, Louisiana.  (For those of you who might not know, counties are referred to as parishes in Louisiana.)  The allegations of illegal religious activities in the school system were numerous and, quite frankly, some of the most extensive and deeply pervasive I had ever encountered in the news media. According to newspaper reports in 2014, these alleged violations included school officials who were pegged with bullying a Buddhist child and openly calling him “stupid” during the school day because he was not a Christian.  I was absolutely floored by the overall allegations because they were indicative not just of a school system that had crossed a legal line in the sand—but rather one that appeared to have driven several hundred miles beyond that line in numerous ways.

Over the past two years, I lost track of this story in the news.  Today this case came to mind again, and I wondered why I had not heard anything more about it. I found out why. The ACLU of Louisiana and the Sabine Parish Board of Education had quietly settled the case under legal oversight by the U.S. District Court before it could go to an actual trial.

The final terms of such legal settlements are put to paper in official, signed legal documents that are available to the public, and the U.S. District Court presides over and enforces the terms of the settlement agreement. I was already familiar with such settlement agreements.

The public school system I matriculated through many decades ago was cornered into such an agreement for limited and far less outrageous allegations of First Amendment violations, and the terms of the agreement were harsh. However, the terms of that legal agreement were not nearly as harsh as the ones in the Sabine Parish agreement.  In my opinion, the Sabine Parish agreement represented nothing less than an old-fashioned, ever lovin’ ass kicking. If you would like to read both the text of the original complaint against the Sabine Parish School Board and the text of the settlement agreement, you may do so by clicking on the following safe links:

Sabine Parish School Board Complaint

Sabine Parish School Board Consent Decree and Order

Do Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical school teachers seriously believe that using fundie doctrines to bully and assault children will somehow lead them to a real and honest faith in Jesus Christ? I seriously doubt it. If I had been treated like the child named C.C. was allegedly treated, I would have wanted to get as far away from Christianity as I could possibly get and never have anything to do with it again. I wonder how a fundie child from Sabine Parish would have fared in a Hawaiian public school system where there is a long history of minority, white Christian children being mistreated at the hands of Buddhist and Shinto public school officials, teachers, and students?

After reading about the abuse of C.C., I still keep and maintain my strong belief that Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism are the two biggest atheist-making and agnostic-making enterprises in the United States. Why? The abusive, bullying practices many fundies use on potential converts run them away from Jesus rather than bringing them to Jesus. You fundies out there seem to have a very hard time understanding that simple concept. Therefore, let me give you an extreme example to highlight what I am saying here.

Pretend for a moment that you are not a Christian. A fundie Christian named Bill is trying to convert you to fundie Christianity. He just grabbed your shoulders and shook you hard for not listening carefully to his witnessing. He just called you “fat-ass Satan fodder. Now he is threatening to take a sledge hammer to your brand new Ford F-150 pickup truck if you do not say the famous Sinner’s Prayer.

Do you really want fundie faith in your life after you have seen what that faith has done to this two-bit punk of a witness named Bill? I do not think so—and if you say that you do—then I know you are a liar. No sane person would respond positively to behavior like that. Yet, that is precisely the way many potential converts feel about the way you fundies treat them. It does not matter what you think about what you are doing. You may think what you are doing is just fine. However, the only thing that really matters the most is the negative way your potential convert perceives your condescending demeanor, harsh words, and bullying actions.

You fundies out there really enjoy telling people about how angry God is going to be with them on Judgement Day. I think every fundie needs to ask himself or herself this question:

How angry is God going to be at me on Judgement Day when I present to him the five converts I brought to Jesus—and then God shows me the 500 people I ran away from Jesus because I treated them like the common, two-bit, bullying, asshole-for-Jesus that I really am?


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.