Louisiana judge rules against creationist teacher

July 18, 2014 • 9:35 am

UPDATE: The ruling was actually published on Marc. 17, and I have no idea why I thought it was this week. At any rate, the story stands, and the update is still an update to what was previously published.  Thanks to a reader for pointing this out.

________

Here’s some good news from Louisiana, home of institutionalized creationism in schools (the voucher schools in that state, which are supported by taxpayers, still teach creationism). In January I mentioned a Raw Story piece that Negreet High School in Louisiana had humiliated a Buddhist student who dared question the Christian creationism rampant in the school, including in science classes. The student and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the school. The report from January’s Raw Story said this (my emphasis):

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.”

That steonewalling reminds me of what the Lebanon School District RIII is doing now. And, as in Lebanon, the creationism was endemic, not just a one-off thing by one teacher:

. . . 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.

But according to an article in Monday’s Raw Story, the parents of the student (the complainants) and the ACLU just won their suit against the school.

Judge Elizabeth Foote of the U.S. District Court, Western District of Louisiana sided with C.C. and his parents, citing that Roark’s behavior — and the school’s decision to defend it — clearly violated “the Free Exercise and Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”

With regard to the specific behavior of Roark, Judge Foot wrote that “[t]he District and School Board are permanently enjoined from permitting School Officials at any school within the School District to promote their personal religious beliefs to students in class or during or in conjunction with a School Event.” Furthermore, “School Officials shall not denigrate any particular faith, or lack thereof, or single out any student for disfavor or criticism because of his or her particular faith or religious belief, or lack thereof.”

She also ordered that all members of the school board, as well as all faculty — both current and incoming — be trained by an attorney approved by the ACLU and the ACLU of Louisiana as to their responsibilities with respect to the First Amendment. The training will emphasize the “the psychological and developmental impact of religious discrimination on students.”

I love that the school board and faculty will have to take lessons from and ACLU attorney about the First Amendment. Can’t you imagine how they’ll be fuming about that?

Now Louisiana is even more conservative than Missouri, home of Lebanon High School and its hyperreligious school board, and yet a Louisiana federal district judge faulted the school for violating the First Amendment. The school district there will, of course, have to foot the bill for substantial court costs.

You can see judge Foote’s decision here.  Here’s one part relevant to the case in Missouri:

Screen shot 2014-07-18 at 7.43.52 AMAre you listening, Lebanon?

 

h/t: Haggis for Brains

66 thoughts on “Louisiana judge rules against creationist teacher

    1. Acts 5.29 (when they think they’re thinking) or “fuck you” (when they’re not). We need to somehow get atheists to understand that fundamentalist christians simply don’t care about obeying the law. For them, the law is just another tool to enforce their own positions, and do assure their continuing cultural dominance.

      I think I can honestly say that of the literally hundreds of conservative christians that I’ve known (including the younger me), I’ve never known even one who was motivated by the dream of a better and/or more just society. Furthermore, on the exceedingly rare occasions when the idea was even broached, it was (again, quite literally) always stated that the way to said society was by converting others. Apparently, they were working under the delusion that christians are more moral and just than are unbelievers (not to mention people who belong to other religions).

      1. It would be nice if the fact that fundamentalist christians simply don’t care about obeying the law would be taken into consideration when nominating jurists to the bench.

          1. I thought jurists was better; what a person should be (at least) before being appointed as a judge. Of course in a place where judges are elected, they might well be eminently qualified in used-car sales rather than the theory of law.

            1. I thought jurists was better; what a person should be (at least) before being appointed as a judge.

              Are there any requirements on US-ian judges before they’re elected. I’m hazy on the details of that electoral process – are candidate judges required, for example, to have any training in the law beyond watching re-runs of Ironside?
              I’m not too sure about the process in the UK either. I believe that candidate judges (sheriffs in Scotland) are required to have worked as a barrister (advocate) for a number of years before being given a probationary or temporary appointment ; there are probably obligatory courses in sentencing guidelines too.
              Come to think of it, I’ve not (yet) been called to jury duty. I’ve had the paperwork, but happened to be abroad when the actual call came (since I’d informed the Procuarator’s office of my lack of a schedule, and this is Aberdeen, this wasn’t a problem ; I wasn’t refusing to attend, I simply didn’t get the call to attend until after the call was due).

              1. I think in most jurisdictions in the US, Judges must be members of the American Bar Association. There is a very strict test to pass the bar exam. I believe most judges are appointed and not elected.

              2. in most jurisdictions in the US, Judges must be members of the American Bar Association

                Impplying that they’re trained lawyers. Now don’t get me wrong – they’re still landsharks. but I’d rather have to deal with the predictable actions of a trained landshark than the unpredictable flailings of a rogue landshark.

                I believe most judges are appointed

                That is very definitely not the impression that makes it to this side of the Atlantic. I’d got the impression that every judge is (re-)elected on a regular basis in the (semi-?)annual flurry of hanging chads ant hacked voting machines where all your elections are carried out on one form.
                Corollary – if the judge isn’t seen to hang enough minorities and suck up to the correct majorities, out he goes.

              3. They might elect some judges down south but all judges (as far as I am aware) are appointed in Massachusetts. Where I grew up in suburban NY, even traffic court judges were appointed.

              4. I sit corrected in the appointed versus elected question. However the impression that has come to this side of the Pond is the election is the norm, not appointment.
                Are there any other cis-Pondians who have received that (erroneous) impression from the products of American pop culture the get to this side of the Pond? Or is it just me, being weird. (Obviously, we don’t receive lessons in American civic organisation, not being in America, nor needing to know such things.)

              5. I believe that some county judges don’t have to be lawyers. Years ago my young-twenties brother decided to open a European car repair joint in Mammoth Lakes, Calif, with a college roommate. It was understood that they would be ski bums on the side. My parents contributed some money. Turned out my brother’s partner was crooked so my brother sued him for stolen assets. The dumbass judge, who was not a lawyer, insisted that my parents be there, since they had power of attorney. My dad was somewhat busy being US (career) Ambassador to Sierra Leone ( the judge had no idea what an ambassador was or where/what SL was) but my mother flew over and after 3 months!! of hanging around he decided that Mom would have to do and the case got somewhat settled…

              6. Here in Wisconsin our judges are elected. And money is becoming the name of the game. The Koch brothers are on a buying spree.

              7. Do those elected judges have to be attorneys who are members of the bar who must have law degreesfrom accredited law schools?

                If not, then how could they ever adjudicate civil or criminal law without knowing the law?

              8. In Wisconsin you have to be licensed to practice law in the state for at least five years and be under the age of 70.

              9. I don’t think we have a formal upper age limit either side of the border. It’s not uncommon for people to continue sitting as judges (or carrying out other similar roles, such as heading Fatal Accident Enquiries) into their late 70s, if not 80s.

  1. What was the ‘something else’ the boy wrote instead of the Lord.
    If nobody knows, how about some suggestions?

    1. IIRC, and I may not, it was something entirely benign and not inappropriate for the sentence. May have been “cook” or “baker”.

      Or I could be remembering something else.

    2. “ISN’T IT AMAZING WHAT THE ___distillery__ HAS MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!![?]”

      Seriously, all those exclams and not one question mark?

    3. I’d have written, Big Bang. One’s choice for the fill-in-the-blank question is limited by the article, the, that precedes the blank unless one doesn’t mind ending up with an ungrammatical result.

  2. Some sort of training for a school board ought to be considered best practice if not obligatory; especially considering the sort of decisions they get to make for their schools.

  3. GREAT VICTORY, JERRY! I was thrilled to read! But it’s just tip of the iceberg! Religion, by far the biggest source of RADICALISM, will be the sole cause of human extinction if we couldn’t avoid it. I am of the type promoting: “RELIGION–WE SHOULD FIND A CURE!” Looks like the more science & tech. is developing, the more humanity is being polarized into a few sci-educated and a lot faith idiots! Thanks Jerry for reading! I am your ardent fan and an antitheist! Anwar Khan

    1. Strong effort. I haven’t heard anybody else refer to themselves as an anti-theist in a long time. Apologetics are pointless. Science and religion are no more compatible than alkalis and halogens. So let’s just admit that and get after it already.
      Sorry if I’m in a fightin’ mood, I’ve been getting trolled all day by apologists and demagogues. Apparently, some people have an allergy to objective reality.

  4. You know, I wish they had gone further and sought damages for child abuse. What that teacher did to that student is nothing short of intentional infliction of emotional distress.

    1. I thought the same thing myself. I’m not an attorney and I’ve no idea what the statutes in Louisiana have to say about the subject, but that has to be some form of criminal harassment, right? Maybe someone with a greater knowledge of the law could weigh in?

      1. That might have been a fall-back position if the original complaint did not get a favorable ruling by the judge.

  5. A quibble. Excellent news, to be sure, but it’s older than Monday. The date on the consent decree is March 14, and the RawStory article is dated March 17.

  6. That teacher should have been fired and banned from corrupting children with lies. The principal should have been fined.

    1. Even if it were legal to discriminate, it’s not good teaching to bully a child! That teacher is a menace.

      1. This was my reaction too. There’s a lot of anti-bullying stuff in schools these days, which is great, but oftentimes teachers are doing it too.

  7. Er – this was from the March 17th Raw Story – at least that’s how the link shows up (it was a monday). Seems to be a record speed for the court to process this, since the filing was in late Jan. Does that mean the training sessions took place over the summer?

  8. Good news indeed, and right before the weekend! yay! As others have posted, would LOVE to witness the dumdums get learned. Wonder how much the trial will cost the district…is that easy to find out?

  9. Excellent decision. They can’t claim ignorance if it happens again. In most workplaces EEO law is mandatory training. Their neglect of training on this issue may be the tip of the iceberg. What else don’t these hicks know?

  10. “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.””

    Wow, I’m impressed. This lets me doubt the qualifications of this woman as a teacher just from the appalling ignorance and lack of critical thinking on display here alone.

    Here’s my alternative exam by the way:

    LOOK WHAT THE _______ DRAGGED IN!!!!!!

    1. The obvious answer is ‘Lord’ and what was dragged in was intolerance, ignorance, immorality and that’s just the I’s.

  11. “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.”

    Two things.

    1)The hypocrosy is truly awe inspiring, though not unexpected.

    2) If that is what your god looks like, it is truly a nasty piece of work. Thanks for the warning.

    When adults are so compromised by their religious beliefs that they treat kids this way, and are smug and righteous about it, that just really pisses me right off. I think having kids of my own has made me less tolerant.

    1. “I think having kids of my own has made me less tolerant.”

      Or just more involved/passionate (or that would be “strident” I guess for the goddies). It hits closer to home, seems more real, more menacing.

      I have noticed this as well. Kids change your outlook on the world.

      And: I’ve found it quite fun to see the world fresh again through my son’s eyes and to do the fun things I did as a kid again (but with money this time!)

      1. Re that last paragraph.

        So true! It is also funny how disappointed I can feel when I excitedly share something with them that I thought was so cool when I was their age, like a song or movie, and they are bord by it.

        It has reached the point were when I say, “oh, this move is really cool we should watch this,” eyes roll and groans ensue.

        I have better luck offering to show them how we used to make things blow up when I was a kid.

  12. I live in inland southern California which is much more conservative than the coast. About 10 years ago our public school district had a policy allowing parents to opt out their children from studying evolution. The school board revisited that policy and ultimately voted to overturn it.

    At the meeting a former school board member and elementary teacher spoke in favor of continuing to allow parents to opt out their children. Every sentence began with a Bible verse and she accused the board (many of whom she had served with) of being apostates.

    Here is her letter to the editor in the local paper:

    Schools must respect parents’ religious belief in the classroom King High School parents took a stand against the teaching of evolution to their children -and the Riverside Unified School District board just may prevent others from following suit. but the larger question is, who has the final say on what our children learn in school?

    Once public school became our family’s choice, I got involved, becoming PTA president at two schools and a school site council president.

    In 1990, the Lord called me to run for school board, so I advanced my involvement to the district level. On the health curriculum committee, for example, I successfully advocated for abstinence-base family life education.

    When I was first elected as a school board member in 1992, Bible-believing, evangelical
    Christians were reluctant to enroll their children in public school.

    Bad policy on sex education and whole-language reading contributed to the movement toward home-schooling and Christian-school enrollment.

    As I changed the curriculum, elevated the status of parents in district decision-making, defended teachers who wanted to pray at lunchtime and encouraged students to form
    Christian clubs, I felt I had made a difference. Our children were not forced to abandon their faith at the schoolhouse gate.

    Public school had now become safe for the children of wary Christians -indeed, for all parents of deep religious conviction.

    Their voices were heard and heeded. RUSD allowed parents to exempt their children if a
    portion of the curriculum or an intrusive survey contradicted family beliefs, and alternate assignments were granted.

    To parents like us, the foremost goal in child rearing is that our children know Christ. The Scriptures lead our children to give Jesus Christ pre-eminence in every facet of their lives, discern truth from lies and lead others to salvation.

    How do my five children approach instruction about evolution in biology? They denounce it
    and, up to this point, have had no fear in doing so. Their boldness has strengthened the belief of others, too.

    My children learn the theory of evolution, but they do not believe that life, in its glorious and infinite complexity, is a random happening. Refusal to believe in this God-denying theory has not prevented them from achieving success in post-graduate life.

    However, some parents are uncomfortable sending their children into battle. for them, there has been a precedent at RUSD; alternative assignments.

    It’s the responsibility of parents, not district administrators, to make an informed decision for their children.

    It’s also the parents’ God-given right to raise their children as they see fit, and there is no exception during school hours.

    My prayer is that RUSD will continue to be a safe place for parents of religious conviction to choose to send their children.

    At the time, I was thinking my child is so lucky never to have had this witch as a teacher.

    Too many can’t keep their religion out of places it has no business going.

    1. I am always disturbed when someone considers something to be their “god-given right”. It usually means something bad – in this case teaching that evolutionary theory is a lie.

      I’m with you – this woman sounds absolutely dreadful and I wouldn’t want any child to come under her influence.

      1. “God-given right” is a synonym for “I’m going to impose my personal beliefs on you now.”

  13. I love it when arrogant, superstitious, infantile public officials are forced to act like grownups. ;^]

  14. Injunction item (d), last sentence, is especially relevant for the Lebanon school district. I hope they are following this carefully.
    It would be fun to be a fly on the wall during the ACLU training of the faculty at Louisiana. I can imagine the grumbling over the time spent.

  15. Absolutely wonderful, but will it / can it stick? We have much the same nonsense in many schools in the UK. Whilst we have a partially mad prime minister who wants us to become a “more christian country! ! I fear that brainwashing children with superstition will continue.

    1. Indeed. I wish his recent reshuffle had got rid of Minister of State for Faith and Communities, Baroness Warsi. Why we even need a minister for faith is beyond me. But then, we still have bishops in the House of Lords.

      /@

    2. Whilst we have a partially mad prime minister who wants us to become a “more christian country!

      I note that next Monday’s number of the “Tonight” programme (vaguely investigatory current affairs programme, on the advertising channel) is entitled “Is Britain Christian?”
      I think Camerlegg (or Clegeron, I forget which of the ConDemnable two is which) may find themselves having a bit of a surprise at the next election, as they discover that there’s a backlash to waving the flag of religion.
      We’ve all seen how well that worked in Ulster. And on the streets of Glasgow.

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