The parents of a Louisiana student are suing a public school board for allegedly allowing teachers to promote Christianity in the classroom. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Scott and Sharon Lane by the American Civil Liberties Union and its Louisiana chapter, claims a sixth-grader, C.C., was forced to learn Christian doctrine in his science class and was harassed by the teacher for being Buddhist.
According to the lawsuit, C.C.'s science teacher at Negreet High School, Rita Roark, regularly taught that God created the Earth 6,000 years ago, that evolution was impossible and that the Bible was "100 percent true." The lawsuit also claims Roark told students Buddhism was "stupid," and chastised C.C. in front of the rest of the class when he refused to answer, "Lord" when asked on a test to complete the sentence: Isn't it amazing what the [blank] has made!!!!
The Lanes say when they complained to the district superintendent, Sara Ebarb, they were told because they were in the Bible belt, C.C., who is of Thai descent, should consider either changing his religion or transferring to a school where there were more Asian students. At Negreet High School, less than half a percent of the student body of 527 is Asian.
Ebarb added that she was not offended that the "lady who cuts [her] toenails" displayed a statue of Buddha.
The Lanes transferred C.C. to another school.
After her meeting with the Lanes, Ebarb wrote a letter to Negreet High School's principal, Gene Wright, saying she approved of the fact that his teachers were able to act in a manner "consistent with their religious beliefs." She also praised the way in which Wright ran the school, which, according to the ACLU, allows for a portrait of Jesus above the entrance and for Bible verses to scroll on the electronic marquee outside the building.
The Sabine Parish School Board, Rita Roark and Gene Wright, are all named as defendants in the lawsuit.
In a blog post on the ACLU website, Scott Lane, C.C.'s stepfather, wrote that he and his wife were first alerted to the situation when C.C. began suffering from anxiety and stomach pains on the way to school every morning. He says ultimately, one of his children, who was also in Roark's class, told them the teacher had been bullying C.C. for being Buddhist.
Although he is no longer an "active Christian," Lane wrote in the same post that he had learned to accept Judeo-Christian norms in American society without complaint. It was only after C.C.'s experience, he said, that he felt compelled to speak out against the "very real harms that occur when school officials violate the separation of church and state."
Lane added that he and his family did not seek to keep Christians from practicing their religion, but rather, to make the separation of church and state more distinct.
"Forcing your opinion on another is not freedom; it is oppression," he wrote.
The ACLU is also asking the Department of Justice and the Department of Education to investigate the school district for violating the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment.