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.