Louisiana Parish Sued For Indoctrination Of Religion By Buddhist Family

170px-rembrandt_harmensz-_van_rijn_079-1There is a troubling case out of Sabine Parish, Louisiana which, according to a Buddhist family, acted more like a real parish than a public school district. A Buddhist family sued Sabine Parish School Board for violating their right to religious freedom with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union. If the allegations are true, the district is engaging in astonishing levels of entanglement with religion in one of the most extreme violations of constitutional law in decades.

The lawsuit describes hallways with “[p]aintings of Jesus Christ, Bible verses, and Christian devotional phrases adorn the walls of many classrooms and hallways . . . A lighted, electronic marquee placed just outside the building scrolls Bible verses every day . . . . . . several posters urging students to “Pray,” “Worship,” and “Believe,” while a poster displayed near the waiting area of the main office announces that “[i]t’s okay to pray.”

The ACLU says that staff members “routinely lead students in Christian prayer” and teachers have been known to distribute religious literature like the bible readings contained in Truth for Youth” literature which denounce evolution, birth control and other evil influences in society. The lawsuit also alleges that Sabine Parish superintendent Sara Ebarb asked the family about whether they could “change” their boy’s religious beliefs and whether it might the better to enroll in a school some 25 miles down the road where “there are more Asians.”

The ACLU filing highlights the alleged conduct of social studies teacher and Defendant Rita

Roark also routinely requires students to provide written professions of faith on science exams and other tests and assignments. Verif. Compl. ¶ 30. The required religious professions have typically consisted of fill-in-the-blank Bible verses or religious affirmations as test questions. Id. On one occasion, the final question on an exam presented students with the following fill-in-the-blank question: “ISN’T IT AMAZING WHAT THE _____________ HAS MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Having been raised a Buddhist, C.C. did not know the expected answer and left the question blank. Id. ¶ 32. Roark marked it incorrect, wrote “LORD” in the blank in red ink, and returned the test to C.C. Id., Ex. A. She also scolded C.C., with the entire class listening, for not writing in the correct answer. Id. C.C.’s sister, who is also in Roark’s class, jumped to her brother’s defense, explaining that C.C. is a Buddhist and does not believe in God. Id. Roark returned to her desk, at which point a student remarked that “you’re stupid if you don’t believe in
God.” Roark looked up and shook her head “yes” in affirmation of the student’s remark. Id.

Roark is accused of making fun of the answer again in front of the class and agreeing with another student calling the failure to believe in God to be “stupid.”

The family alleges that when they complained about such incidents that they were told that they live “in the Bible Belt.”

The lawsuit gives other incredible details and returns to the conduct of Roark:

Roark continues to promote her religious beliefs to her students, including C.C.’s sister, during science class and at other times. Id. ¶ 43. In recent months, she has repeatedly instructed students that evolution is not valid as a scientific theory and that God made the world 6,000 years ago. Id. ¶ 44. She demands that students write either a Bible verse or “Isn’t it amazing what the Lord has made” at the bottom of exams if they want extra credit. Id. ¶ 45. Roark writes “Yes!” next to the verse or religious affirmation and awards students five additional points when they comply with this mandate. Id. In addition, in social studies class, Roark presents Biblical accounts of persons, places, and events as fact. Id. ¶ 46. For example, on a handout asking, “What mountain did Moses supposedly get the Ten Commandments from,” Roark crossed out the word “supposedly.” Id. She also has told students that the Bible is “100% true” and that “scientists are slowly finding out that everything in the Bible is accurate.” Id.

The school district has responded by “”The Sabine Parish School Board has only recently been made aware of the lawsuit filed by the ACLU. A lawsuit only represents one side’s allegations, and the board is disappointed that the ACLU chose to file suit without even contacting it regarding the facts.” That is pretty tepid. Given some of these allegations, I would have preferred an immediate statement saying “of course these are ridiculous allegations. We are not a school district in Bora Bora. Geez.”

If even a fraction of these allegations are true, the district is looking at major liability in this litigation. While the district says it would have liked more time, these are open and egregious violations. This may be “the Bible belt” as the parents were allegedly informed, but it is also part of the United States and subject to basic constitutional limitations under the First Amendment.

You can get the documents from the ACLU at this site.

81 thoughts on “Louisiana Parish Sued For Indoctrination Of Religion By Buddhist Family”

  1. As I’ve said, I am very private about my faith and the anti evangelical model. And, I have gotten some zings from atheists here. I have NEVER said anything against atheists; but some here, and who were here, carried an atheist chip on their shoulder. I actually understand that chip. When you’re a distinct minority it’s tough to not be chippy.

  2. I have not seen people ridiculed here because of their faith, unless it is a cult or scam, but they become fair game if they try to inflict their faith on unwilling others. Most of the regulars on this blog are people of faith including our host. We just don’t go around forcing our beliefs on others.

  3. Criticizing public school systems and employees that discriminate against and/or ridicule children who are not fundamentalist Christians isn’t ridiculing people of faith. What such schools and people are doing is not Constitutional. No child should be disparaged, ridiculed, discriminated against, made to feel as if he/she doesn’t belong in a public school because of his/her familiy’s religious affiliations or lack of religious affiliations.

  4. I believe the red state/blue state ideology is a way that the govt. works to keep people from seeing other human beings as potential friends. It’s a way to demonize others by hating them. It makes each side feel superior, building up a false sense of self “esteem” which sanctions cruelty and hatred while creating the inability to think things through accurately to flourish.

    It is necessary for people to be unable to think things through and to hate one another for such a corrupt government to get away with what it is doing. It’s the reason that so many Democrats agree to support politicians and policies which rob the poor, tear down women’s rights, war, mass surveillance and torture, while at the same time, they feel good about doing it. It’s what helps many Republicans to hold these exact positions and also feel good about doing so.

  5. Robin,

    There are several things wrong with what it being done. Because something falls under the category of “religious” does not exempt ideas or behavior from being judged. In fact I would argue religious behavior, (along with political behavior and beliefs) are some of the most important areas that we need to make really good judgments about.

    Mike Appleton explained the Constitutional violations involved in what the school is doing. In addition many people have explained the cruelty of bullying a child who holds a different set of beliefs from the majority of people in positions of authority over him. We have a secular Constitution. I know that many people feel there is nothing wrong with authority figures harming children. For example, the Catholic church has excused and protected child rapists for decades. Many Catholics are just fine with that, many are not. But it needs to be thought out whether bullying and raping young children, even when done by the religiously powerful, is O.K. It likewise needs to be thought out if it is acceptable to a society that teachers and other members in a schools hierarchy may attack a young person for any reason, let alone to make that child conform to their religious beliefs.

    I don’t have any problem with judging cruelty towards children as wrong, illegal and not to be tolerated. I don’t have any problem with judging that violating our Costtitution is wrong, destructive of freedom of religion, destructive of our society in general, and should be stopped–immediately.

  6. Elaine, in the school’s defense, Jesus is nimble, quick and is a lot faster than he looks. He also plays multiple positions.

  7. Robin,

    “and thats alright for you but to judge others for what they believe is WRONG.”

    That’s what this teacher was doing–judging and making fun of this child because of his beliefs. That most certainly IS wrong. That’s one good reason to show why religion has no place in public schools. Children can pray at home, in church, at the park, etc. Why impose someone else’s religion on children? I wouldn’t have wanted someone doing that to my child when she was in school.

    Homeschooling is not illegal. What gave you that idea?

  8. much is missing and obviously not wanted. but let me point out that since PRAYER was taken out of the schools we have had a full scale blow up of schools shootings, stabbings, bullying, kids failing etc. what all of you are ignoring and refusing to understand is there is a religious war going on. NOT A RACE WAR as the bankers want you to believe. but a spiritual war. and so far on the face of it satan is winning. it doesnt matter who , what, or how you see your spiritual guides as long as you see one..

    For those who don’t believe in the spiritual i still have yet to see a viable fact from them on what, who, why ,how and when. and i never will. what all of you are also missing is that ITS ALL A DISTRACTION to keep all of you from accepting, acknowledging, seeing the truth!!! and apparently you think its alright. and thats alright for you but to judge others for what they believe is WRONG. no one is forced to send their kids to these schools. take your kids out and home school them…. oh wait sorry homeschooling has been made illegal because the cabal bankers are scared you will teach your kids what it means to be free, what a democracy is, who or what a spiritual guide is, along with teaching them how to read, write, add, multiply and think for themselves but hey then again thats just a conspiracy theory.. like all the rest

  9. Getting back to the topic, this pathetic story raises a host of issues. Here are a few that particularly irk me:

    1. The actions of the school district reflect a knowing and intentional rejection of the supremacy of the Constitution.

    2. Religious fundamentalists are terrified of changing demographics. They know they are losing a cultural war and are responding by doubling down on their efforts to create a nation that has never existed other than in their twisted fantasies.

    3. There is no such thing as the “Christian religion.” Christianity is a family of literally hundreds of variations on one central theme. The religious right has attempted to copyright the word “Christian” as descriptive of a narrow form of biblical literalism of modern origin.

    4. If the nation wishes to permit religious indoctrination in the schools, it will be necessary to amend the Constitution accordingly. But should that happen, l’ll be damned if I’ll go along with the brand of religion being pushed by this bunch. If we are to become a theocracy, our kids at least deserve something better than what is taught at the Reverend Billy Bob’s School of Bible and Cosmetology by people who couldn’t distinguish Aramaic from pig Latin.

  10. Buhdists don’t believe in God? I dont know about that . I have been to Thailand many times and visited the temples and spoken with the monks and they are the most spiritual people I have ever met. To me the discription of Budha as a beeing that radiates light sounds a lot like Jesus and the teachings are very similar. I think they are the same , both vessels of pure good and a medium between man and the holy spirit.
    I have also never heard of Buhdists being offended by Christianity. My wife is a devout Buhdist and I am Christian and we both believe in God. I dont think displaying the teachings of Buhda would do any harm and in fact I think that would be a great idea. We are not enemies.

  11. BarkinDog,

    My point was that different states have different ways of doing things. It wasn’t meant as a criticism of what you said.

  12. The Title of the article says that the Parish is being sued. That was the point of my bark.

  13. BarkinDog,

    Where I come from, each community has its own elected school board. We also have some regional school districts.

  14. In Louisiana, a Parish is what we call a County in all other 48 states and that place where Palin is from called Alaska. As in other states, a school board is an entity within one or more counties, or operating schools in a district over one or more counties and is not the county itself. So, if you hear the phrase “publish or perish” look at the spulling and you will see that they are not talking about some Parish in Louisiana. What I would do in this lawsuit is seek removal of the board members and I would characterize this as UnAmerican activities.

  15. I thought this post was about religious indoctrination in a Louisisana public school–not about Ricahrd Sherman.

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