A shot across Lebanon, Missouri’s bow

August 15, 2014 • 6:30 am

Twice the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) has written to the Superintendent of Schools of the Lebanon, Missouri school district, and twice they have been met with silence. The FFRF’s complaint, you’ll recall, is about Lebanon High School Principal Kevin Lowery’s prayer at the last graduation—a prayer that clearly violated the First Amendment.  Principal Lowery unofficially apologized for praying at a public-school function, but the proselytizing of Christianity at that school, and not just via graduation prayers, has apparently been going on for a long time. The FFRF wants it stopped, ergo the complaint.

Apparently the school board and superintendent of Lebanon thinks that if they just ignore the thing, it will blow over. But that’s not the way it works, and they really should know that. Their recalcitrance comes, I guess, from wanting to defiantly hold on to their religion, and from misguided notion that there’s really nothing wrong with broadcasting their faith all over the local school.

Well, the next step has been taken: the FFRF has written a kind of “discovery letter” to Lebanon, asking for information about the prayers and all exchanges between Lowery, the Superintendent, and the school board about the prayer. And these people have no choice but to answer this one: a response is required by law.

Here’s the FFRF’s letter, reproduced with permission. I figure that seeing all this will not only educate us about the tenacity with which certain Christians maintain their right to violate the Constitution, but also about how legal steps can be taken to build that church-state wall back up.

Click to enlarge:

Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 8.05.50 AMMy guess is that these people will respond that there were “no exchanges about the issue.” If they do that, they’d probably be lying, and they’d be in even bigger trouble.

Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. The problem is that these people can’t distinguish between God and Caesar. And now, since they’ll have to consult a lawyer, it’s going to start costing them.


33 thoughts on “A shot across Lebanon, Missouri’s bow

  1. Looks to me like they’re opting to play Chicken: keep on course, give not an inch, and make “the other side” think that “they” will have to veer off course to avoid a crash because they’re sure as heck not going to. I don’t think they’re even worried about the crash itself. If they win, it’s a victory for religion. If they lose, the establishment has been outed as anti-Christian persecutors and it’s a victory for religion.

    Of course, they’re probably banking on members of the public – bystanders – interpreting their actions as brave and committed expressions of communal faith rather than as empty and illegal self-righteous foolishness in a secular country. I’m not convinced they think “that if they just ignore the thing, it will blow over”. I think they’re quietly daring the FFRF to go ahead. They probably think they’ve got nothing to lose.

    1. And therein lies the problem. These people are not personally responsible for the lawsuit. It is the school system that loses money if the case goes through, not the school board.

      That is not to say the lawsuit shouldn’t go through, it should. If they lose the lawsuit it will force them to comply. But it is a flaw in the system that leaves school boards with little motivation to follow the law.

  2. Since this letter doesn’t mention any penalties for non-compliance, it’s possible that the school board won’t respond to this, either. After all, if separation of church and state means nothing to them, some “sunshine law” won’t either.

      1. Who needs AV equipment when every student has a book with the answers to everything?
        It could be that they are thinking that the tide has turned and that, now that god has sent a Supreme Court that interprets the Constitution in light of His will, they will win this one.

  3. These events will continue to happen until K-12 schools are governed by professionals instead of local school boards comprised mostly of individuals who know nothing about education, let alone constitutional law

  4. Sometimes it seems to be rolling a rock up a hill. This morning also offered a post at Friendly Atheist, concerning a Washington (state) public school teacher managing to get a creationist evangelical scheduled to speak to an assembly of eighth graders: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/08/15/creationist-science-teacher-strikes-again-inviting-evangelist-speaker-to-his-public-middle-school/
    What can one say, except – be ever vigilant, they just keep coming back.

    1. I read Hemant’s post about that too. That “Ranger” Gary Horton guy was uber-scary. Not just illegally promoting christianity in a public school, but also delivering a completely biased and frankly rather idiotic right-wing screed. So he’s guilty of religious AND political indoctrination. There is something deliciously ironic about a bible-belt conservative railing against the state while he abuses our tax dollars and the first amendment in proselytizing at a public school.

  5. I hope the FFRF puts a stop to this. Religion and religious teaching and doctrines have no place in ANY school curriculum. Tennessee allows Creationist teaching in their classrooms, being presented as an “alternate view”, and I think it’s an outrage.

    The insanity has to stop

  6. They’re clearly looking for a spot on Fox as Christian Martyrs. Huckabee might take them on to appeal to the base for his (I predict unsuccessful) run in 2016.

    There are plenty who will donate to support principal Lowery I suspect, so financial suffering may not be a motive to comply.

    It’s been said before – these people just don’t understand that they’re doing anything wrong, and no number of lost legal battles will convince them otherwise. They’re fighting for their g*d, and they can’t see past that.

    1. Yes, and they fight for their g*d by channelling hate and fear and superiority over anyone who opposes them…or any law that opposes them. And why would an omnipotent/omniscient/infinite g*d need defending anyway? All old arguments, but still very true.

      At any rate, I’m glad the lawsuit is moving forward. Thanks for the update prof. Ceiling Cat.

  7. I wouldn’t be surprised if they claim there’s no exchanges, oblivious to the fact that any such exchanges can be found on numerous Web servers, even if they purge their system. Ignorance and fundamentalism do go hand in hand.

    1. I hope a lawyer will weigh in here, but if that’s what they are claiming, it smells like bullshit to me. Intentionally engineering a criminal act and the defense is what server it’s stored on? Once it hits the internet, it’s all over the place, on multiple PCs and servers. I would think the argument would center on whether the emails in question were sent by the school board members while they were acting in their official capacity. Sure, I could see a loophole in the Sunshine Act, but they’re dreaming I’d they think it’ll get them off the hook if other records are subpoenaed.

      1. The weekly columnist at the daily record is saying that there is not a federal policy on religion in school, that the Supreme Court had made some rulings on specific instances but the 1st Amendment protects Mr. Lowery’s free speech.
        Others are saying that this group needs to leave them alone, they don’t even live in that town.
        And again since the board members do not have an e-mail address from the school district but their own business/personal e-mail address that they use, they are not obligated to turn those records over.
        Really wish some of you would sign up on that forum and set some of them straight.

        1. I did sign up a couple months ago when Jerry first posted about this issue. They never approved me to comment. I was trying to jump in where they were having a field day talking about the “out of town elitists” butting into their business. The hysteria in the comments just kept building, an expected outcome when they’re writing the narrative for the other side and already suffer from a massive persecution complex.

          1. Yeah, you have to message the mod to get approved, sometimes several times. They aren’t very good at their job. Here is a message posted to their forum:

            We continue to get hundreds of potential spammers that are attempting to gain access to the forum. Again, I am concerned that valid potential members may have gotten flushed by the filters.
            If you have attempted to sign up for the forum, but have not yet been approved, please send me a PM and we will get that taken care of. Please include your user ID when contacting me so that I can go directly to your account and get the issue resolved.

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