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Apr 27 2012

Student Dresses as Jesus for Fictional Character Day

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.

11 comments

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  1. 1
    Worldtraveller

    And around we go again.

  2. 2
    Brian63

    Since the costume generated such a controversy, and these school officials are in favor of “teaching the controversy,” shouldn’t they be eager to teach the alternative belief that Jesus did not actually exist and was a fictional character?

    Oh, they are only in favor of teaching alternative viewpoints and “both theories” on this one issue of evolution, not other issues as well.

    Brian

  3. 3
    laurentweppe

    Would coming dressed as Reagan the Tea Party firebrand, Ben Franklin, the atheist Jedi, or Obama the commi-nazi atheistic Muslim count as well?

  4. 4
    MikeMa

    Damned sad but hardly surprising from such an ignorant scientific backwater. I do hope he escapes to a more enlightened area or stays to fight against it.

  5. 5
    Alverant

    When students came as a fictional character, were there any other religious figures? Was there a Zues or Anubis or Coyote? If not the school could easily say they were treating all religions equally and a student couldn’t dress up like Odin either. But if someone else did show up as a mythological hero people believed existed then we’d be right in saying the student was wronged.

  6. 6
    dogmeat

    As an educator, my response to this story was

    head -> keyboard … *whimper*

    Obama the commi-nazi atheistic Muslim

    That would be a awesome costume.

  7. 7
    eric

    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.

    Dr. Farmer is an idiot who – quite aside from the 1st amendment problems – obviously doesn’t understand that religions can contain fictional elements. Actually I’m guessing he does understand that, when it comes to all religions except his own.

  8. 8
    rjlangley

    @3 laurentweppe

    That’s Obi-Wan Franklin. Ben was just a name he took while in hiding on Tatooine, guarding Jesus’ Constitution or something.

  9. 9
    Michael Heath

    Ed reports:

    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.

    My immediate and visceral reaction, “fuck that!” Unfortunately my mother-in-law was near-by; she didn’t deserve to get startled by that exclamation.

  10. 10
    Freeman

    #5 Alverant: Your questions were answered within the student’s essay:

    Dr. Farmer asked me whom I was portraying. I told him that I was Jesus Christ. He said he had been hoping my answer would have been Zeus (or some other variation of a mythological deity).

  11. 11
    monimonika

    *takes a quick look at picture at link*

    If I were Jeff, I would’ve stated I was dressed as the totally fictional Caucasian Jesus Christ.

    Assuming that a Jesus of Christian fame did exist in some form in the past, depicting a “white” Jesus as an obviously fictional character should be allowed (and commended for adhering more to the Truth!).

    …Now I really want to see Obama the commi-nazi atheistic Muslim.

  1. 12

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