Bible belt nation

At the ACLU blog, an exceptionally nasty example of theist bullying in the public schools.

…when my stepson, who has been raised a Buddhist, enrolled in the sixth grade at our local school, Negreet High, it became personal, and I could no longer turn a blind eye to the very real harms that occur when school officials violate the separation of church and state.

My stepson started at Negreet in the same class as one of my children. By the end of the first week of school, he was having serious stomach issues and anxiety. We couldn’t figure out why. In the mornings, my wife would pull over on the side of the road as they approached school so he could throw up. At first, we thought he was sick and we let him stay home. Soon it became apparent that this was not a cold, but something much worse. Our children informed us that their teacher had been chastising and bullying my stepson for his Buddhist beliefs.

On a science test, their teacher had included a fill-in-the-blank question: “ISN’T IT AMAZING WHAT THE _____________ HAS MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” When my stepson didn’t know the answer (“Lord”), she belittled him in front of the entire class. When he wrote in “Lord Buddha” on another exam, she marked it wrong. As she was returning that exam to students, one student proclaimed aloud that “people are stupid if they think God is not real.” In response, my stepson’s teacher agreed, telling the class, “Yes! That is right! I had a student miss that on his test.” The entire class broke out in laughter at my stepson.

That’s religion for you – a reason to gang up on an outsider and make him feel sick.


  1. Omar Puhleez says

    99% of what religion is about is belonging to an in-group and having thereby a tribal identity. Precisely what is believed does not matter, as long as all believe the same basic doctrine. Belief in God, under whatever name and on whatever basis, qualifies one for membership. Hence the teacher did not feel particularly concerned by this account to speak only to or for (say) Catholics, or say Methodists. Students who were Christians of any denomination, plus Jews, plus Muslims would have been OK with her.

    ‘Know thyself’ was reportedly the inscription some ancient Greek sages had inscibed on the temple at Delphi, and self-knowledge and self-understanding remains to this day the most fudamental goal of education, without which the rest of it is trivial.

    It would appear that the teacher has quite a way yet to go.

    Which reminds me of that delightful story of the Zen master who was given a copy of the Sermon on the Mount to read. Afterwards he said something like: “This is very good. I tell you truly, whoever said this is not far from enlightenment.”

  2. says

    That teacher should be fired for gross malpractice. Bullying one of your students, and encouraging bullying by other students, is…so far out of line there are no words for it.

  3. noreligionrequired says

    I live in the heart of the Bible Belt, southeast Georgia. As sad as it may seem, this type of behavior does not surprise me. Living in the south we are often ostracized for NOT believing in Yahweh. If you are any other religion besides Christianity you are seen as a trouble maker and often seen as the Antichrist. Down here the whole concept of the Separation of Church and State stands against everything they believe in. If the theist down here had their way teachers would be leading a morning prayer in school just before the Pledge of Allegiance. I often here Christians, especially my parents, saying that the biggest mistake this country ever made was taking prayer out of school. I wonder how they would feel if Muslim teacher lead his/her students in a prayer to Allah? If you are going to put prayer back in school, that should include EVERYONE! I have no problem with people praying, what I do have a problem with is when these people take their God out of church and carry him into the voting booth. School is a place of learning, not a place to force your religious beliefs on a captive audience.


  4. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @ ^ Eamon Knight : Not to mention also failing basic science and misinforming students. Surely the teacher couldn’t have passed her own training and qualified if the teacher thinks its okay to do that? Even in Bible belt USA?

    Bullying a Buddhist boy who is doing nothing wrong or harmful, just? How pointlessly, hatefully mean – and exceptionally unprofessional. If this teacher is still employed after this becomes known, well, that’s staggeringly wrong.

  5. yahweh says

    “99% of what religion is about is belonging to an in-group and having thereby a tribal identity” is getting to the heart of the matter. Yahweh, aka God, was “the god of the Israelites”, one of the Canaanite pantheon, in the Hebrew people’s monolatrous days. I’ve often thought that xtians wanted (a little enviously) to be “god’s chosen people” too. I’m sure that’s why they circumcise their boys in the US.

  6. cymrugel says

    Sorry, but I am not buying this.

    No teacher in a state school would carry on in such a way ; they would be quickly fired and its extremely unlikely that every student would be from a background that is uniformly of the same religious persuasion.

    I would certainly like to see any science test that refers to “The Lord” in any way shape or form. Such a test would have no validity whatever.

    As a practising Catholic who went to RC schools all through my childhood I can state unequivocally that such behaviour would not have been tolerated. If that was the case in an openly denominational school with an open religious confessional bias I cannot see how the behaviour that you are describing can take place in a state run institution.

    We were also given a good introduction to other faiths and beliefs and in a respectful way that did not compromise our own religious point of view. Science lessons did not include references to “The Lord” at any time. In fact I can imagine the reaction of my physics and chemistry teachers (both strong Catholics) would have been to such nonsense.

    Frankly, I simply do not believe what you are saying here. I have Googled the school and there is no indication that it is some sort of freaky Bible belt institution.

    All readers should write to them and complain demanding an explanation

    I for one would be perfectly willing to sign any petition condemning the behaviour you describe as being a national scandal and would expect the teacher involved to be subject to disciplinary procedures for grossly unprofessional conduct.

    What say you?

  7. Scr... Archivist says

    According to this series of maps at the Washington Post ( ), northern Louisiana is predominantly Southern Baptist. Sabine Parish is among the least religiously diverse 20% of counties in the U.S. (according to something called Simpson’s Diversity Index), and has an 81.8% rate of religious participation. There are 42 religious congregations per 10,000 people in that parish, putting it on the high end for the U.S.

    Interestingly, Wikipedia reports that the parish is nearly evenly split between Blacks and Whites. I wonder if people there try to use religion to forge a connection across racial lines.

    The town of Many, Louisiana, has about 2,700 residents according to Wikipedia. And the website of the Southern Baptist Convention lists fifteen affiliated churches in that town. If I’m reading the right obituaries for Roark’s mother and mother-in-law, she is probably a Baptist, too, since both of the deceased had their funerals at Baptist churches.

    Interestingly, a textfile of a 2000 obituary for Dorothy Mildred Wright says that her daughters include a “Rita Roark of Bossier City and Roma Veuleman of Negreet”. That obituary also names a son, Gene Wright of Negreet. I wonder if he is the same Gene Wright who was Principal of the school where this discrimination took place? And is he the Northwestern State Men’s Basketball Hall-of-Famer? Was he a coach at Negreet in the late 1970’s or was that another Gene Wright?

    Also, Superintendent Ebarb graduated from Negreet High School in 1979, according to a brief September 14, 2011, article in the Shreveport Times. The article also says that she “received unanimous support of the School Board” for her appointment. I wonder if Rita’s sister Roma is married to (or otherwise related to) Sabine Parish School Board President J.A. Buddy Veuleman?

    I wonder how common this kind of … closeness … is in small towns.

    And never mind this talk of belt buckles. Looking more carefully at where this town is, maybe it can be made into an Achilles Heel of midwestern Christian supremacy.

  8. Wylann says

    I hope, in addition to shining the light on this kind of consititutional violations, the family sues the teacher personally for emotional distress. The article (or maybe one of the other ones I read on this) says the boy is adopted, from Thailand, I think. He probably has an obvious foreign accent, which makes it easier to ‘other’ him, rather than welcome him.

    Melting pot, my ass, the US has become more of a frying pan for potential immigrants these days. 🙁

  9. says

    @ 7 – but I’m not the one saying it. I simply quoted someone else saying it. Take a look at the source and see if you’re still incredulous.

    Mind you, I agree that it strains belief that a teacher would include such a question on a science test – or at all, for that matter. Even without the religious aspect it’s just such a stupid question and so stupidly presented. It looks more like a drunken tweet than a question on a high school exam.

    But, the ACLU is suing. They wouldn’t be doing that if they hadn’t investigated the facts.

  10. Dan L. says

    How does someone miss the huge link at the top and the fact that most of the post is obviously a quote from some other source?

    cymrugel@7: Simply disbelieving stuff because of a “gut feeling” doesn’t make you a skeptic. Get in the habit of checking sources.

  11. sqlrob says

    @cymrugel, #7

    Sorry, but I am not buying this.

    No teacher in a state school would carry on in such a way

    The name Freshwater ring a bell?

  12. says

    To be fair, I did do a minimal amount of explanation or commentary (it was late, I was rushing!) and cymrugel may be unfamiliar with B&W, so it’s understandable not realizing I was quoting.

  13. Nepenthe says


    Why yes, I will do your homework for you, asshole.

    Here you can see the exhibits in the suit, including the tests, photographs of Christian decorations on the school walls, a page from the school website proclaiming “We believe God exists”, and a variety of other exciting evidence.

    And in case you have trouble in the future, try Google before insinuating that the ACLU is making shit up.

  14. quixote says

    My first reaction after a quick read was also, “Whuuut? Can’t be !” Then I saw Scr…Archivist’s comment #9 that this was in Northern Louisiana, and all was made clear to me.

    I used to live in New Orleans and had to drive through Sabine Parish sometimes on my way to other places. It’s not that I spent any time there or know the place well, but a few mere stops as gas stations and fast food joints is enough for the story to ring true.

    I don’t know how anyone survives in those densely religious communities. It’s a testimony to the strength of children that they can grow up there and produce so few mass murderers.

  15. Erp says

    @Scr… Archivist

    Actually Sabine Parish seems to be predominately White (70.8%) with Black at 16.6% and Native American at 8.6% (most probably in the Choctaw-Apache Tribe of Ebarb, State recognized but not federally recognized).

  16. Scr... Archivist says

    Erp @18,

    You are correct. Thanks for that.

    It is the town of Many that is nearly evenly Black and White, according to Wikipedia. It is the parish seat.

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