Hemant Mehta has a post about a high school student from Tennessee who dressed up as Jesus when the school had a “fictional character” day and the students were to dress as their favorite non-existent characters from books and movies. Unsurprisingly, the school told him he had to take it off.
A couple of months ago, Summit High School in Spring Hill, Tennessee held a “Fictional Character Day” in which students could come to school dressed as their favorite fictional character. Like the Mad Hatter. Or Darth Vader. Or SpongeBob SquarePants.
Jeff Shott came dressed as Jesus.
Before class even started that day, Shott was asked by the principal and other staffers to remove his costume. It was inappropriate, they said.
Shott did what he was told, but he explained how everything went down — as well as the other problems with religion in his school — in the essay below, reprinted in the April, 2012 issue of Freethought Today.
For what it’s worth, the Freedom From Religion Foundation issued him a $1,000 scholarship as the first recipient of the Paul J. Gaylor Memorial Student Activist Award.
Unfortunately, it’s not worth all that much because it won’t prevent the school from doing the same thing again. And the student makes clear that this is not the only religion problem at the school:
Even though I’m typically very openly atheistic and have no problem discussing my views, I was a little distraught that all three school authority figures were addressing me at once. Dr. Farmer claimed I couldn’t have things both ways — I couldn’t complain about teachers talking about Jesus and also dress up as Jesus on Fictional Character Day.
I’d had a long talk with him earlier after my science teacher, in reply to a question about evolution, had publicly said things such as “Evolution is just a theory,” “I don’t believe it at all,” and, “We actually come from Adam and Eve.” It’s fairly clear that she openly advocates not only Intelligent Design, but straight-up biblical creationism.
I immediately asked her, “Can you honestly say that as a science teacher?” She told me that she could. That upset me a lot.
When I mentioned this to him, Dr. Farmer had wondered if we should just teach “both theories” equally, essentially advocating that we “teach the controversy.” I explained why creationism doesn’t belong in a science classroom, that my teacher wouldn’t be able to substantiate her claim with empirical evidence or the scientific method.
So we have both a teacher and a principal who are ignorant of both science and the law. And yes, he can have it “both ways” because the two situations have nothing to do with one another. A teacher on duty is not speaking on their own behalf, they are an agent of the government and the First Amendment limits what they can and can’t say in a classroom; the student is under no such constraint. People who reason this badly are in charge of educating children.