Rampant creationism in Louisiana public school; Buddhist student told to avoid the hassle by converting

January 24, 2014 • 1:40 pm

Well, there’s more creationist lunacy in Loonisiana, and this is a doozy. It all took place at Negreet High, a public school.  A piece in yesterday’s Raw Story tells the tale:

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Louisiana on Wednesday filed a federal lawsuit against Negreet High School in Sabine Parish on behalf of two parents, Scott and Sharon Lane, and their son, “C.C.” The lawsuit claims the school has “a longstanding custom, policy, and practice of promoting and inculcating Christian beliefs,” including the teaching of creationism.

Sixth-grade teacher Rita Roark has told her students that the universe was created by God about 6,000 years ago, and taught that both the Big Bang theory and evolution are false, according to the lawsuit. She told her students that “if evolution was real, it would still be happening: Apes would be turning into humans today.”

One test she gave to students asked: “ISN’T IT AMAZING WHAT THE _____________ HAS MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” The correct answer was “Lord,” but C.C. wrote in something else. Roark responded by scolding the boy in front of the entire class.

When informed that C.C. was a Buddhist and therefore didn’t believe in God, Roark allegedly responded, “you’re stupid if you don’t believe in God.”

On another accusation, she allegedly described both Buddhism and Hinduism as “stupid.”

When the outraged parents confronted Sabine Parish Superintendent Sara Ebarb about the incidents, she allegedly told them “this is the Bible belt” and that they “shouldn’t be offended” to “see God here.” Ebarb advised that C.C. should either change his faith or be transferred to another District school where “there are more Asians.”

I know non-Americans (except for Canadians) will be astounded at this tale, but if you’ve traveled in the American south it’s no surprise. In fact, the parents moved “C.C.” to another school to preserve his mental health and his freedom from religious abuse.

Negreet High is apparently a hotbed of this stuff:

The lawsuit claims that other teachers and faculty members also push Christian beliefs on their students. Prayer is often lead by teachers in classrooms and during school events. Religious literature that denounces evolution and homosexuality has been distributed by faculty members to students. The school’s hallways are filled with Christian iconography and electronic marquee in front of the school scrolls Bible verses.

Remember this is a public high school.

As in so many places, this kind of intrusion of religion into public schools—a blatant violation of the U.S. Constitution—simply goes unnoticed unless someone complains. After all, most of southern children are brainwashed devout Christians, and will take creationism not only in stride, but will welcome it.  There’s no way for us to know how frequent this kind of lunacy is (“Isn’t it amazing what the Lord has made!!!!!!!!!!”) unless a student complains and thereby becomes, as did C.C., a pariah.

And so the poisoning continues.

h/t: Steve

71 thoughts on “Rampant creationism in Louisiana public school; Buddhist student told to avoid the hassle by converting

    1. Yes indeed about the expensive lesson forthcoming. As a native of nearby Shreveport, I can safely say that Sabine Parish Louisiana, not to mention Negreet, hardly have the financial resources to defend against a lawsuit not to mention paying for an expensive settlement.

      Google Sabine Parish School District to contact Sara Ebarb. I think it may be against Dr. Coyne’s forum rules to post a link and/or e-mail address.

      With that said, the Sabine Parish School District cancelled school this January 24th due to a rare two to four inch snowfall. School district personnel will very likely not read their e-mail until next Monday, January 27th.

      Finally, perhaps we can interest the Shreveport news media to cover this story or even possibly the Lake Charles media as well.

      1. “Sabine Parish Louisiana, not to mention Negreet, hardly have the financial resources to defend against a lawsuit not to mention paying for an expensive settlement.”

        They’re well positioned to learn their inevitable lesson then.

  1. We need to send in the Sophisticated Theologians(™)! They will surely help the benighted peoples of Louisiana in the proper way to understand god.

    1. Did you really think from reading the OP that the author thought that? For the sake of the point you wish to make you are willing to present yourself as having such poor reading comprehension? Doesn’t seem like a very good tactic to me. Probably better to just directly state whatever is on your mind.

      1. I think Goosyphus’ reading is reasonable. There are a couple of statements that imply this problem is worst in the South — and anyone who lives in the U.S. knows that it is. I can’t imagine something like this happening in California or Oregon (even though there are backward areas in both states). Now, rural Utah? Yeah, could happen.

        1. Okay. I still don’t. No where does Jerry state that this could only happen in the South. Nor does anything he wrote imply that that was his intent. Stating that, or implying that, this kind of problem is more frequent in the South is not nearly the same thing.

          Oh okay, your being ironic aren’t you? 🙂

        2. Oregon had the most regressive ‘shield’ laws in the country until very recently. Shield laws protect parents and others who believe in faith healing only as the way to heal sick or injured people from criminal prosectution for abuse, manslaughter, murder, etc. The Christian Science church has bastions in Oregon, Idaho and back East. True harmful superstitious insanity happens in the Northwest but thankfully to a lesser degree than in the bible belt. By the way, as an example, the child death rate for the Christian Science church in Oregon City was 26 times the national average (over a 30 year period) after 2 investigations literally dug up the truth. This is only one example of the real harm that can and does happen due to organized religion.

            1. Thanks Rosinerne. That is correct. I was thinking the followers of christ were an offshoot of the xitian science group but apparently not. They all have the faith healing lunacy in common.

  2. When people question why secularists fight so hard against prayer in public schools, which on the surface might appear minor and even harmless, it’s useful to keep in mind stories like this. Imposing private religious beliefs goes against the very definition of a ‘public’ institution, and stopping the religious (Christians, for the most part), forcing them to be careful in their preaching at work, hopefully prevents more such stories of institutional bullying. Also, teaching creationism is downright dangerous, so stopping things before it can get to that point is a great thing to aspire towards.

    1. I don’t know. The same sorta thing (religious imposition) happened in Iran, and that country turned out okay. Oh wait, no sorry, it’s a veritable shitstorm there. Carry on…

    2. Note that it is the ACLU leading the charge here. They also recently made a beautiful statement here in Maine against a proposed law that would give religion even more privilege than it already has.

  3. My guess is that this is way more prevalent than evidenced by past reportage. If anything, the Gnu Atheist outcry may give confidence to minority believers and nonbelievers and a platform for these complaints to be heard. I would expect more such news stories.

  4. Rita Roark is a real piece of work. She is a perfect example of what is holding society back. She offers a perfect example of how to stunt children and make sure that they will never reach their full potential. Indoctrinate the kids. Dismiss them, their ideas, wants, feelings and input as trivial compared to adults. Dominate the kids and make sure that they know their place. Demonstrate to the kids, with the imprimatur of an authority figure, the intolerant behavior and rigid lack of thinking fostered by good ole US religious culture. Basically the exact opposite of what is most likely to empower children to be the best they can be, to contribute most positively to society, and to be decent human beings.

    These days with all the effort expended on awarenss and prevention of bullying in public schools this is the irony. None of these programs address the institutionalized bullying of children by the adults who are entrusted with their care for hundreds of days a year. That is child abuse. Children in schools like Negreet High are being mentally and emotionally abused, and getting a shitty education as well, and the people in charge think all is just as it should be.

    At a minimum the teacher and the superintendent should be fired immediately upon verification of the charges. But I have no doubt that a much more thorough house cleaning would be of great benefit for the future of any of the poor children that will have the misfortune of attending that school. And that is just a drop in the pot considering the entire country.

      1. Good point. After all you can cure ignorance with information but if you fill the kids heads with shit then they become impervious to knowledge and can be depended on to vote for the people who did it to them in the first place.
        Jesuit version: ‘Give me a boy until he’s seven and he’s buggered for life.’

    1. Have you read The Good News Club by Katherine Stewart? If not you can find some of her talks on Utube. This just one way that children, very young children, are being exploited, scared to death, turned against their friends at school, etc. It is even causing severe schisms among parents
      in communities. Very ugly stuff and, with the blessing of our current Supreme Court, all legal.

    1. Those of us who live here tend toward shock ourselves sometimes. Luckily for me, I live on the west coast and it’s not nearly as bad here.

      1. Maybe not right on the coast, but head inland just a little and you’re right back in it. I live just east of the Cascade mountains in Oregon. I have a friend from rural Louisiana and he says this is the most backward, intolerant place he’s every lived in.

  5. re “Remember this is a public high school.

    As in so many places, this kind of intrusion of religion into public schools—a blatant violation of the U.S. Constitution—simply goes unnoticed unless someone complains:” My father, Willard, within also a public school ( the “minister” was the PUBLIC school – teacher ! ), had raised his hand, y1931 / eastern Iowa, and asked the teacher thus, ” … … but what about ‘Lucy’, … … ya’ know, Herr So and So, the bones found in Africa?”

    And in front of the entire class, this ‘response’ to Willard from http://tinyurl.com/lmjejwd (referred to in the following memoir’s excerpt as AmTaham True)

    “””This autumnal day of Zane’s question to me was still two years away from The Conversation, the conversation about belief systems and the entire fallibility of the World’s so – called “great religions” that just the two of us, Daddy and I, finally did engage in while we were both cleaning paintbrushes in the Havencourt basement. The one where AmTaham True actually apologized to me, his adult child, for having all 40 of my years forced me to exactingly and punctiliously attend this male – mandated thing called christian worship service and sunday school for all of my first two decades of life.

    Coming as it did – that conversation – 58 years! after AmTaham True, himself, had been forced by his German American head schoolmaster, Herr Minister So – And – So, to “believe what it is I tell you to believe!” the controlling Herr Minister’s right index finger repeatedly thumping and thrusting itself deep into AmTaham’s 12 – year – old chest after Herr Minister had first yanked him up and out of his desk chair and screamed this commanding order at the Adolescent AmTaham in front of all of his classmates.

    Just because Daddy had in 1931, to the then so – called teacher, raised a hand in rebuttal and proceeded to recount to the rest of the roomful about the bones of a monkey – like critter known as Lucy which had earlier been unearthed during that mid 1920s’ decade somewhere way off on a continent known as Africa. A truly classic “textbook” case in history – making and, subsequently, in history – teaching to the World’s next generation of George Orwell’s, “He who controls the present controls the past; and he who controls the past, controls the future.” “””

      1. And I’m going to guess it was the “Taung Child”, which was found by Raymond Dart in 1924 in South Africa. There would have been a lot of talk about that around 1931.

        1. Details get confused in oral transmission, plus Lucy gets all the publicity these days. No big deal. Both were representatives of the genus Australopithecus (the Taung Child being the first one described)and so fairly similar creatures. I’ll bet there was great excitement in 1931 about this recently discovered “apeman” from Africa.

  6. Good grief, I really wish these teachers would join the rest of us in the 21st century and if they aren’t going to ditch their ridiculous superstitions and woo, at least keep it under wraps at the school.

    My dad told me that when he was in school (in the early 50s), a teacher called his Catholic cousin “a little micky bastard”. My dad told his parents and he had to, as a young boy, face this teacher and repeat what she called his cousin, in front of the school administrators. The teacher wasn’t fired but she surely was reprimanded and this was over 60 years ago! And the teacher got in trouble!

    To think that teachers are STILL behaving in very much the same way in a technologically advanced society, exacerbates my IBS.

  7. Oh hey – what happened to that stuff about metaphors and gods who are just “grounds of being” and other such things? Obviously Loo-siana has the Rong Cristians, them thar’s No True Christians.

  8. “I know non-Americans (except for Canadians) will be astounded at this tale…”

    I’m not an American, but I’m not surprised either. What’s wrong with Americans?

    1. I am an American and I’d appreciate not being lumped in with the yo-yos at Negreet High, thank you very much.

  9. Public high school? I was in a medical and pharmaceutical law class in Memphis about 15 years ago. The topic was the organization of all law – statutes, regulations, constitutions etc. At one point the lecturer asked, in a distinctly Southern drawl, “And what is the source of all laws here in America?” The class of about a hundred answered back in unblinking unison “The Bible.” The lecturer nodded in approval and moved on.
    (for the non-americans readers, the source of laws of our secular nation is pre-christian English Common law. Furthermore many a Founding Father found infinitely greater moral wisdom in the words of Roman pagans such as Marcus Cicero and Tacitus than they did in the bible. Yup! We are one nation, indivisible, inspired by the wisdom of pagans :-))

  10. When some Christians cry “Freedom of Religion”, this is what they are talking about… freedom to supress everyone else’s religion.

  11. As a Brit I was as surprised to find a forum entitled “Why Evolution is True” as I would have been to find one called “Why The Earth Isn’t Flat” and I was also a little disturbed by some of the anti-Christian rhetoric. I see now that the USA has a bigger problem that I realised with the teaching of Creationism in schools; something unthinkable in the UK. But, I am still concerned that some Atheists seem to have a similar attitude to religion as do religious evangelicals towards Atheism and feel the need to make an aggressive attack on religious beliefs. This is also true of some European Atheists, Humanists and Secularists and I am bothered by it. Surely a tolerance for other peoples World View (no matter how barmy they seem) is fundamental to a philosophically rational position, or am I wrong there?

    1. If religion wasn’t harmful in many ways, you might be right. But really, do you think that we should have a “tolerance” for world views that countenance calling homosexuality a grave disorder, that marginalize women and favor the burning of witches, that encourage sharia law and, among the Taliban, the throwing of acid in the faces of girls who want to go to school? That police people’s sex lives and tell them not to use condoms to prevent AIDS, that terrorize children with false thoughts of hell, that make it hard for people to divorce each other, that lobby ceaselessly against abortion and stem-cell research, and so on and so on and so on. World views should be tolerated to the extent that they are salubrious. Really, you want those views I’ve just described “tolerated”, no matter how “barmy” they seem?

      Yes, I think you are wrong.

    2. Everything Jerry said & they use the interpretation of an ancient bronze aged book to infringe on science (teaching of falsehoods like the world is 6000 years old being chief among them) and medicine (curbing vital stem cell research).

      Hitchens said that religion poisons everything, but in many ways it’s worse. It destroys. Maybe not everything, but certainly the things that help us progress as a society.

      There is nothing wrong with calling out this bad thinking. In fact, we should do it more often and I will not tolerate any of this nonsense from the religious or anyone else. I won’t harm people who say it, I probably won’t even call them idiotic or stupid, but I will call them ignorant and sometimes willfully so.

    3. “I see now that the USA has a bigger problem that I realised with the teaching of Creationism in schools; something unthinkable in the UK.”

      If you believe this you may want to spend some time at Jonny Scaramanga’s blog Leaving Fundamentalism.

      This post will give you a basic rundown on Accelerated Christian Education.

      This post is relevant as discusses how NARIC has endorsed the ACE curriculum in 2009 and as recently as 2012. Some of this “education” is being funded by the UK government.

      “Earlier this year, Naric, a UK government agency, recognised the International Certificate of Christian Education (ICCE) as comparable to Cambridge International A-Level standard. This is a travesty, and not just because of Creationism. ICCE is the certificate students get for completing the fundamentalist curriculum Accelerated Christian Education.”

      Dr. Coyne has previously posted on this as well, Fundamentalism I: Religion and creationism in UK schools.

      I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

      1. These replies to my post are very interesting and food for thought. Perhaps we have to recognise the difference between religious texts and cultural norms. Female genital mutilation for example is not recommended in the Koran as far as I can see. However, it’s not difficult to interpret the writings in any way that justifies your cultural beliefs and habits, and I would agree that to the modern, liberal mind, many of the ideas expressed in religious texts seem loony at best and downright dangerous, cruel and repressive at worst.

        We should also remember the appalling things done by Atheist States and demagogues, e.g. Many Communist regimes, Fascist Germany, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao Tse Tung. Religious extremism doesn’t seem to have a monopoly on cruel and inhuman treatment or mass murder, ethnic cleansing, torture and genocide. Most of us Atheists can be just as bigoted and prejudiced as believers as well as being downright plain wrong at times. Perhaps a little humility on our part would help our cause rather than hinder it.

        I personally deprecate the teaching of religion in schools and of the State subsidy of ‘Faith Schools’ in the UK but perhaps the best way to remedy the situation is via the legislature rather than by attacking all religion per se.

        1. The “appalling things done by Atheist States” argument has been disposed of so often that it hardly deserves another hearing now. You might use your Google machine to learn why it doesn’t work. Here’s an example of what you might want to read. And another. And another.

        2. That’s the key word there: “demagogues”. Fascist Germany, headed by a Roman Catholic, aided and abetted by the Vatican, with troops 90% Lutheran (and the remainder Catholic), “Gott” on their belt buckles, with their antisemitism ingrained everywhere from their religious founder’s (Luther’s) writings to the stained glass in their cathedrals is not a terribly apt example of an atheist state. The others mentioned (including today’s North Korea) exhibited the characteristics of religious trappings — cults of personality… most revering fearless leader as if they were a god. Seems to me the horrible things done in the name of those leaders were done with a blind fanaticism very characteristic of religious non-thought. It wasn’t like atheists were ganging up and murdering only theists (which is a common myth in the US — that Stalin, a former priest BTW, was destroying ALL the churches — he was targeting anyone who he perceived as a threat to his power, and formed alliances with religious people he thought he could work with). Stalin knew a thing or two about how religion controlled the masses, and capitalized on the dynamic of fear and obedience, IMHO.

          Certainly I agree we are better served by chipping away at legislation (how does one simply do away with a diverse and all-pervading phenomenon, anyway?), but I think it does everyone well to recognize the elephant in the room and quit apologizing for it with false equivalencies. My two cents.

            1. Curious… I checked various histories… he excelled, achieving a scholarship to the seminary – and performed satisfactorily, but joined various street gangs in addition to going to school… essentially becoming a street criminal. In addition to not being able to pay tuition, it seems he dropped out a few months before graduating after joining the local socialist chapter intent on overthrowing the czar… so it seems he was a no-show for the final.

              Darned tootin’ that he wasn’t a priest, though. Thanks.

        3. A quick modification though… in the case of Pol-Pot… I had not realized when I made that comment that the Khmer Rouge specifically banned religion, targeting the religious specifically for the killing fields. (nor that Pol-Pot was apparently not the object of a personality cult – though I could have sworn that I read somewhere that he was revered as a deity. I could’ve gotten mixed up, though. Cannot find any references to what I had previously thought about that regime.)

  12. When non-Southerners (or even some fellow Southerners) continue to brush off Southern children as so brainwashed and indoctrinated that they can’t be helped, the state of science education here will never improve. The student brainpower in the classrooms here is larger than one might think, but the problem is the lack of institutional support for students who have legitimate concerns or complaints about their instructors. Just because discussions and frustrations don’t make national news and aren’t being covered by the ACLU doesn’t mean they aren’t happening in classrooms across the region.

    FWIW, this is an appalling story. Zack Kopplin has been huge for Louisiana and now Texas in exposing similar horror stories as well as the much more common underhanded techniques (“teach the controversy,” etc.) and trying to improve science education for our state.

  13. Always a little late to the party but this demands comment.

    My stomach turns a lot when I read accounts of egregious constitutional violation, especially when it involves religion. Really, every American should be outraged by the ignorance, and disregard, for a cornerstone of American society.

    Are these people really that stupid? Have we really done such a terrible job of insuring an educated populace? Apparently. We need national standards for schools enforced, not state by state corruption of children’s minds. How many more of these schools are out there? Why don’t we give the NSA a new direction.
    There are days when I am very ashamed of my country. I really want to cuss aloud. Excuse me…..

  14. The problem with many Christian conservatives is that they are long on self-righteousness and short on selflessness, long on callousness and short on compassion, long on intimidation and short on tolerance.

    If you happen to be a believer in some form of “God”, wonderful. If it happens to be a “higher being” that is not promoted in Judeo-Christian theology, this should be respected as well.
    If you are an atheist or agnostic, that is equally wonderful. All points of view should be respected, and no one should be so insecure that they feel compelled to convert, condemn, or denigrate “believers” or “non-believers”.

    Most importantly though, people who belong to any of the myriad of religions that exist in this country should observe their tenets and practice their rituals in the comfort of their homes and religious sanctuaries, and not try to impose their particular religious values and mores onto the rest of society via political lobbying or by proselytizing religious dogma in public schools.

    Furthermore, teachers and school administrators should never be encouraged or permitted to berate or insult students for their personal views on spirituality.

    Finally, religious beliefs have no place in the science curriculum. Sanctimonious, scientifically-illiterate, theocracy-minded politicians and pundits have redefined what constitutes science to fit their own point of view. Therefore, they equate real science with ‘natural phenomena under the control of God’.

    What they don’t understand is that science is not merely a body of knowledge accumulated over the centuries, it is also the process through which this knowledge is attained. And so simply declaring that something is true because it says so in the Bible (or any other literary source) cannot be construed as science if that “fact” or “idea” was not the result of a valid, structured, self-critical scientific process.

    The realm of science — with its evidence-based testable theories, evolving species, relativistic measurements, and quantum phenomena — undermines the “absolutism” that is embraced by those whose view of the universe must conform to a literal interpretation of the Bible.

    1. No! (to the first part)

      All people should be respected. “Beliefs” do not deserve the sort of generic respect you suggest. Ideas should all be open for critical analysis and no religion deserves protection from scrutiny. Some points of view are hideous and deserve nothing but mockery, condemnation, denigration and ridicule. For example, the idea that people should be able to own other people is (I hope) obviously hideous and not worthy of the least bit of respect. Similarly, the idea that adult women should be subject to the control of their male family members. I could go on, but I probably don’t need to.

  15. Perhaps the most heartbreaking truth about this issue, is that a vast ammount of Americans would (and do) greatly disagree with and shun the pushing of these ideals, yet the brainwashing persists. Even more would they be (and are) enraged over this type of humiliation / abuse of innocent children (among numerous other things) in the school systems, but it continues to happen far too often. I very glady know not a soul personally that reflects this atrocious pattern of willfull blindness / racist behavior… and when I meet this type of self-righteous moron, I simply can not bite my tongue. It is has been and I fear always will be abundantly clear why people have a horrible opinion of America…and it is because of these fools, who are NOT worthy of claiming our country, that this terrible image is imprinted.

  16. she allegedly told them “this is the Bible belt” and that they “shouldn’t be offended” to “see God here.”

    Hey Rita: Words of Jesus Himself: “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.”

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