Congratulations, you are the parent of a public school student! And welcome to Sabine Parish, Louisiana. We are so happy to have your child learning with us and we are so grateful that your tax dollars have permitted us to establish the educational programs and academic atmosphere we’ve developed over the years here. Let us provide you with a brief guide about what your child’s life will be like while he or she is at school with us each day.*
Let’s start with what your child will see when she enters or departs our school. “Paintings of Jesus Christ, Bible verses, and Christian devotional phrases adorn the walls of many classrooms and hallways, including the main hallway leading out to the bus pick-up area. A lighted, electronic marquee placed just outside the building scrolls Bible verses every day.
“In the main foyer of the school, one display informs students that “ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS.” It includes several posters urging students to “Pray,” “Worship,” and “Believe,” while a poster displayed near the waiting area of the main office announces that “[i]t’s okay to pray.”
Those sparkling electronic bible verses help students follow along as “staff members routinely lead students in Christian prayer” and “also distribute religious literature to students. Recently, for example, “one teacher” gave students “copies of a book from the “Truth for Youth program… “Truth for Youth” Bibles consist of the entire New Testament and with cartoon tracts that denounce evolution, spread scientifically inaccurate information about birth control and sex, and warn students about the evils of rock music, drunkenness, pornography, premarital sex, homosexuality, sorcery, witchcraft and other subjects.” These kids these days—with their evolution and sorcery!
But if you aren’t religious, or if you aren’t a Christian, don’t worry. The school’s overt emphasis on religion—and on one religion in particular—is all perfectly legitimate and lawful under the Constitution and the First Amendment. Just ask the superintendent of schools in the parish, Sara Ebarb, who has said, “[t]his is the Bible Belt” and who asked the parents of a Buddhist student recently if he “has to be raised Buddhist” or if he could “change” his faith and suggested to them that he should transfer to a school where “there are more Asians.” Religious objectors, Ebarb has said, should simply accept the pervasive of official Christianity in Sabine Parish public schools. Easy-peasy, folks, just convert!
If your child is in sixth grade and interested in science, good news— the school has the perfect teacher for her! “Rita Roark regularly asks her sixth-grade students for professions of Christian faith in science class and teaches the Bible as scientific fact, claiming that the Big Bang never happened and that evolution is a “stupid” theory that “stupid people made up because they don’t want to believe in God.”
Instead of the theory of evolution, your child instead will learn about Roark’s “beliefs about ‘Young Earth’ creationism, informing students that the Big Bang never happened and that the Universe was created by God approximately 6,000 years ago. She also teaches here students that evolution does not exist and has stated that, ‘if evolution were real, it would still be happening. Apes would be turning into humans today.” We are indeed so blessed to have this woman of science teaching our children.
The science class is rigorous, you should know. “Roark also routinely requires students to prove written professions of faith on science exams and other tests and assignments… On one occasion, the final question on an exam presented students with the following fill-in-the-blank question: “ISN’T IT AMAZING WHAT THE _______ HAS MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.” (The correct answer, of course is “the Lord” but don’t worry if your child is not a Christian or otherwise doesn’t know the answer. The teacher will correct him, in front of the class, even if he writes “Lord Boda” because he is Buddhist and in sixth grade).
Here are a few tips. You can get extra credit in that class if you include “verse or religious affirmation” in your responses but be careful if you cast doubt upon Bible stories! For example, “on a handout asking ‘What mountain did Moses supposedly get the Ten Commandments from?’ Roark crossed out the word ‘supposedly’. She also has told students that the Bible is ‘100% true” and that ‘scientists are slowly finding out that everything in the Bible is accurate.’” This is convenient, of course, since, as Roark told her class recently, Buddhism “’is stupid. Speaking about the founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha, she proclaimed that ‘no one could stay alive that long without food and water.”
Does your student like math? Last year, he might have been lucky enough to get teacher Stacy Bray, who asked “her students to bow their heads and pray aloud before lunch every day. Bray selected a different student each time to lead the class in prayer and participated in the prayers herself. Another teacher, Angela Knight, leads her class in daily prayers before lunch.” Nothing like a good prayer in public school to whet your public school student’s appetite!
If your child still isn’t satisfied with the level of prayer in individual classrooms don’t fret. There is an awful lot more prayer in our school. You should know that “nearly all school assemblies begin with prayer”—at the Drug Abuse Resistance Education assembly, at the school’s annual Class Ring Ceremony, you name it. And on Veterans Day, “including the most recent, school officials invite a local Christian preacher to hold a group prayer at a mandatory faculty/student assembly honoring the Nation’s veterans.”
I’ll tell you a funny story. A family objected to all this prayer in public school recently and had a meeting with Superintendent Ebarb to voice their concerns. She “defended Roark specifically, declaring that ‘[t]eachers have religious freedom.’ She further stated ‘if they were in a different country,’ Plaintiffs would see ‘that country’s religion everywhere’ and that, therefore, they ‘shouldn’t be offended’ to ‘see God here.’” Just another reason to be thankful for Louisiana’s good graces!
And then do you know what Superintendent Ebarb did? That rascal—she wrote a letter to the school’s principle, Gene Wright, ‘stating that she approved of Wright’s practices in general and that she approved of the fact that the teachers” at the school “acted consistent with their religious beliefs.” Wright then “read the letter to the whole school over the public-address system.” I guess that’s what the Bible teaches us when it says, in 2 Samuel 22:31: “As for God, his way is perfect. He shields all who take refuge in him.” Incidentally, you can see that verse in a poster on the walls of our school!
In closing, we want again to welcome you and your child to our school district. As it also says on the walls of our school, from Phillipians 4:6-7: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.”
• All of the information and quotes contained above come directly from the claims and allegations made in the Verified Complaint and/or Memorandum in Support of Preliminary Injunction that were filed Wednesday in federal court in the Western District of Louisiana by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the Lane family. Here is the link to the complaint. Here is the link to the Injunction Memo Brief. Here is a link to the powerful statement offered by Scott Lane, C.C.’s father, titled “If You Want to Fit in At This Public School Just Become a Christian.” And it is Lane, an aggrieved father, who gets the last word. He writes:
We don’t begrudge others their right to their Christian faith. But that’s why the separation of church and state is so important: It gives us all the breathing room and freedom to believe what we want to believe and to practice those beliefs without undue influence or interference by the government. Forcing your beliefs on another is not freedom; it is oppression.
And when official religious practices are this rampant and pervasive, like they are in Sabine Parish public schools, it is tantamount to religious discrimination. It excludes children and families of minority faiths and beliefs and creates a hostile environment for them. It undermines everyone’s religious freedom. I see that now.