MS School Sued for Mandatory Religious Assembly


The Rankin County School District in Mississippi has been sued by the American Humanist Association on behalf of a student after the school held several mandatory school assemblies for Christian proselytizing at Northwest Rankin High School in Flowood. You can read the full complaint here.

The three assemblies took place in just the last few weeks and they featured members of the Pinelake Baptist Church. The first was for all seniors, the second for all juniors, then a third for freshmen and sophomores. Attendance was mandatory.

On April 9, 2013, Principal Frazier sent an e-mail message to all faculty membersat 8:04 a.m. instructing them to send students to a mandatory assembly in the Performing Arts Building (“PAB”). The e-mail read in full: “Sorry for the late notice. All seniors will need to report to the PAB during Cougar Connection. They should report directly from 5th block. Thanks.”

The School did not inform the students what the presentation at the Senior Assembly would be about or who would be making it. The students were only told that attendance at the assembly was required.

Once the students and faculty arrived in the PAB, a student member (the “Church Representative”) of Pinelake Baptist Church started to give a presentation about finding “hope” in “Jesus Christ.”

The Church Representative opened the senior assembly stating: “Today we are just here today to talk about hope…and where we have found it.”

After about a minute of introductory comments, he started a video for the students. The video profiled four young men it claimed once led troubled lives.

The first statement made by one of the speakers in the video is: “Hope is fixing your eyes on an eternal purpose.”…

In turn, each of the speakers explained how turning to Jesus Christ solved their problems and recommended that other people turn to Jesus Christ as well.

The second speaker said “Now I find my hope in God,” and that “he shows me the love my father could never show me.” “He’s taken me in as his son.” He “taught me how to be a man.”

The third speaker said: “But now, I found my hope in the one true Father who is God. He is the one that can fulfill relationships.” He realized that “He is that happy ending.”

The fourth speaker stated: “But now I found hope in my personal savior.”…

Once the video ended, the Church Representative summarized the video in regards to how Jesus Christ helped the young men and other troubled teens, and told the students that Jesus could help them too.

This is about as blatant a violation as one could imagine. I can’t imagine the school’s attorneys are telling them anything other than to settle the case and reach a consent agreement to never do it again. But the school is actually pretending that the meetings were voluntary:

Although the Rankin County School District had not received a notice of the lawsuit Thursday afternoon, a spokesperson issued a written statement stating:

“Our students have the freedom to organize student-led and planned meetings and the assembly in question was student led and organized. The meetings were not mandatory.”

First of all, the emails from the principal clearly contradict that. But even if this was true, and even if it was student-led, the fact that it took place during the school day and interrupted the regular academic day still makes it illegal. They’re going to lose and they’re going to lose badly.

Comments

  1. davidct says

    But since god is on their side, why should they obey the law. They answer to a higher (but imaginary) power. In MS they rarely have to deal with other imaginary friends and just don’t see the problem.

  2. says

    the Church Representative … told the students that Jesus could help them too.

    Maybe Jesus will show in court to help the school administration.

  3. abb3w says

    Correction: from the complaint, it appears the third assembly was Sophomores only. The AHA complaint caused a delay in the Sophomore assembly of a couple weeks (points 70 and 71) until the 22nd; it may be the filing of the lawsuit on the 24th resulted in the postponed final assembly for Freshmen (point 69) to be cancelled.

  4. Hercules Grytpype-Thynne says

    You’ve got to feel for that second speaker, who apparently craves parental love so much that he feels he gets more of it from an imaginary being than he does from his own father.

  5. says

    Step 1: Violate separation of church and state at a public school.
    Step 2: Use/waste tax payer money to defend the violation in court claiming god is on your side.
    Step 3: Cry about how being a christian is so hard now-a-days.

  6. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    All seniors will need to report to the PAB during Cougar Connection.

    *guffaw*
    Try googling “Cougar Connection”.

  7. Larry says

    The meetings were not mandatory

    Yet another well-developed xtian trait: lying through one’s teeth.

  8. otrame says

    According to one report I read the doors were blocked by various teachers and staff and when one kid tried to leave they were told to sit down and shut up. Not mandatory at all then. As someone at JT’s blog said, there is an argument for kidnapping charges.

    Is it possible that some idiot thought that if they claimed it was “student led” that they could do it?

  9. ArtK says

    Mandatory assemblies to hear the “word of god”? Yet another example of how Christians don’t really think that their god is all-powerful. If they truly believed it, then there would be no need to coerce people into listening — their god’s message would speak for itself.

  10. jnorris says

    What we need are for the Jews, Muslims, and Wicca to sue for the same access to a captured audience.

  11. a miasma of incandescent plasma says

    “But now, I found my hope in the one true Father who is God. He is the one that can fulfill relationships.” He realized that “He is that happy ending.”

    Really?!
    I mean… Really?!?!

    OK fine. “Jebus directs us to the lube, but we have to give ourselves the happy ending.” There, you jerk, I typed it. You happy now?!

  12. Sastra says

    Well, the assembly itself was mandatory but the kids were all given the CHOICE to accept Jesus or not. So it wasn’t really mandatory, when you look at the Big Picture. I guess.

  13. says

    Not that I see it as a viable alternative but do you think that if we had let them keep the slaves they’d be less fundageilical?

    @billdaniels:

    Did Linda Rondstadt actually say that? Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

    Did I ask you before if you’re the same bill daniels who used to comment at Steve Gilliard’s blog?

  14. Alverant says

    #9
    Of course anyone in the prosecuter’s office even considering kidnapping charges will be accused of trying to oppress christians.

  15. Moggie says

    billdaniels:

    “We Need a Whole Lot More of Jesus and a Lot Less Rock and Roll.’
    Quoting Linda Ronstadt.

    “Remember, there’s a big difference between kneeling down and bending over.”
    Quoting Frank Zappa.

  16. timberwoof says

    Modusoperandi, such amateur trolling makes you resemble someone who’s trying desperately to be mistaken for a compete idiot.

    I don’t understand how religious liberty permits school official to conduct mandatory religious education in government-funded public schools. I did not know that religious liberty was an excuse for coercion or kidnapping. Maybe you can explain that part to us?

  17. kantalope says

    timberwoof is clearly not acquainted with modus’s modusi? moduses? Anyway – you keep up the good work modus!111!

  18. Ichthyic says

    All seniors will need to report to the PAB during Cougar Connection.

    cougar connection?

    is that like the local dating service there?

  19. Ichthyic says

    “We Need a Whole Lot More of Jesus and a Lot Less Rock and Roll.’
    Quoting Linda Ronstadt.

    hell, I can’t but think ANY Jesus at all would be a whole lot more.

    Rock has proven its value in reality.

    Jesus? not so much.

  20. dan4 says

    @9: Care to provide a link for that “report?” Anyone can say anything about anyone by saying they read an unspecified “report.”

  21. John Horstman says

    @6: You forgot step 4 – exploit the persecution complex you’ve cultivated in your followers for profit!

  22. says

    How exactly did this go over at the school board meeting?

    Board Member #1: It seems we just have too much money in our budget this year.

    Board Member #2: What should be we? Cut taxes or spend the money improving our science labs?

    Board Member #3: Nah, let’s hold a blatantly unconstitutional assembly that will practically beg for us to be sued and pay out a massive amount in damages and attorney’s fees.

    Board Member #1: Great idea! All favor?

    All: Aye!!!

    Board Member #1: Motion carried. Get our attorney on the line and tell him to get ready for the lawsuit.

  23. Rip Steakface says

    Timberwoof, Modusoperandi is a professional Poe. The person is just too damn good at it.

  24. kermit. says

    democommie – Linda Rondstadt didn’t say it, she sang it during her country period. It’s hard to avoid doing the occasional backwoods or country western gospel if you sing a variety of country western. She also went through bouts of rock and roll, big band, musicals/operetta, and Mexican. I think her singing Gilbert & Sullivan cancels out her singing “We need a whole lot more of Jesus”. Barely.

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