In January I recounted the story of how a Buddhist student at Negreet High School in Louisiana was subject not only to religious proselytizing, but blatant (and vicious) religious harassmentl I gave following excerpt from The Raw Story):
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.”
It’s unbelievable that this is going on, isn’t it? And yet it’s happening far more often than we know, for we learn about this stuff only when somebody complains. And as you know from the Jessica Ahlquist story, with complaints about religion comes total vilification. When people say that atheists are nasty, think about how many of them would bully a religious person like the faithful bullied Ahlquist.
The ACLU and its Louisiana Branch filed a lawsuit (there was obviously a complaintant), and, as Heather Weaver reported two days ago on the ACLU’s Blog of Rights, the high school lost this no-brainer case:
Today, C.C. [“a sixth-grader of Thai dexcent”]and his family won. A federal district court entered an order requiring the school district to refrain from unconstitutionally promoting or denigrating religion. The court’s order also mandates in-service training for school staff regarding their obligations under the First Amendment.
. . . The court’s order, which took the form of a “consent decree” agreed to by the school board, ensures that these unlawful practices will be discontinued in Sabine Parish and brings the case to a close. We applaud the board for doing right by C.C., his siblings, and all district students.
But of course the locals will not go gentle:
Unfortunately, however, not everyone has reacted to the lawsuit with the same measured consideration as the school board. While C.C. and his family have received much support from the community (including from some local congregations) and from across the country, they also have been harassed via crank calls to their house and work. And last month, C.C.’s mother Sharon was accosted while doing yard work: Three people wearing KKK-type white hoods drove by her and shouted, “You fucking nigger Asian-loving bitch.”
A few days ago, someone on Peter Boghossian’s Facebook page (Peter’s on a lecture tour of the South) accused me of being an anti-Southern “bigot” simply because I said I like lecturing in the South more than other places, for that’s where the problem of faith is strongest in America, and also because I enjoy the give-and-take of animated discussion after my talks. That discussion is of course more “vigorous” in places like Georgia and South Carolina than Pennsylvania or Massachusetts. But of course no state has a monopoly on the hatred of atheists.
That critic was truly eager to find some reason to diss me, and was forced to resort to the “bigotry” claim that often fuels the critics of “Islamophibia”. Sadly for my critic, I’m not bigoted against Southerners, but simply opposed to many of the anti-humanist attitudes that are more prevalent in the American South than in other places. Who can deny that, or the treatment that C. C. and his family received would be more probable in the South? It is not bigotry to oppose racism, religious proselytizing, and violation of the American Constitution. Nor is it bigotry to point out that this stuff is more common in some places than others.