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No, Buddhism Is Not “Stupid,” Judge Tells Louisiana Teacher

No, Buddhism Is Not “Stupid,” Judge Tells Louisiana Teacher

Excellent news! The parents of a sixth grade student in Louisiana whose teacher made fun of him because he is Buddhist have won their lawsuit against the school district.

In the past, Rita Roark had told her students that the universe was created by God about 6,000 years ago and informed them that both the Big Bang theory and evolution are false. She told her students that, “If evolution was real, it would still be happening: Apes would be turning into humans today.”

This level of ignorance makes me wonder if this woman is actually a credentialed teacher.

One test she gave to students asked: “ISN’T IT AMAZING WHAT THE _____________ HAS MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” The correct answer was “Lord,” but one child, known simply as “C.C.,” wrote in something else.

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.”

When Scott and Sharon Lane, C.C.’s 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.”

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Louisiana filed a federal lawsuit in January against Negreet High School in Sabine Parish on behalf of the Lanes and their son.

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

Judge Foote 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.”

Too bad that Rita Roark did not lose her job over this incident. Clearly, some people who call themselves teachers should not be allowed anywhere near young people.

As a teacher with many years of experience, I am ashamed but also angry when I read of fellow teachers behaving in such a narrow-minded and cruel way. Teaching should be about helping kids fulfill themselves, not about putting them down and making them feel bad.

As Heather L. Weaver, senior staff attorney for the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, put it: “The treatment this child and his family have endured is not only disgraceful, it’s unconstitutional.”

“Public schools should be welcoming places for students of all backgrounds,” said Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana. “No child should be harassed and made to feel like an outsider in his own classroom, and students should not have to endure school officials constantly imposing their religious beliefs on them while they are trying to learn.”

In case you’re wondering how a public school, funded by tax dollars can be pushing one religion, you should know that this situation is not unusual in Louisiana. Last year, the state decided to fix its failing public education system by offering parents vouchers to nearby private schools instead. Many of these schools are private religious institutions, meaning that other non-Christian students may find themselves having to sit through classes that criticize homosexuality and evolution, classes that are funded by tax dollars.

Perhaps Louisiana should take a look at schools in Ireland: a major change to the primary curriculum will occur in September 2014. Beginning at age 4, children will receive instruction in atheism, agnosticism and humanism as part of their ethics and belief systems alongside studies of other religions. The courses will be offered as part of the curriculum in non-denominational schools and will also be available online and via apps for those who attend other schools.

Meanwhile, Rita Roark will keep spouting her creationist beliefs as the truth. Too bad for those poor sixth graders, who may take quite some time to discover they have been lied to.

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Photo Credit: Thinkstock

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716 comments

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9:51PM PDT on May 12, 2014

I thought it was already illegal to teach religion in school, guess just here. Good Judge.

12:32AM PDT on Apr 12, 2014

"RESPECT" is a magic word upon which everyone can rely to ease the burdens of this world. If only we could respect each other;...practicing the "Golden Rule"! ...keeping in mind that many (nasty/unnecessary) things are better left unsaid or better yet .. if one has nothing good to say, "SHUT UP". YES, ABSOLUTELY, LET US RESPECT EACH OTHER!

3:14AM PDT on Apr 3, 2014

How can a woman whothinks the universe is 6000 years old possibly be qualified to be a teachewr, she is a complete moron. She is the one with stupid views that fly against all known facts.

12:26PM PDT on Mar 29, 2014

"Entre los individuos como entre las naciones, el Respeto al Derecho ajeno es la PAZ.
Benito Juárez.
Es un pensamiento célebre de un gran héroe mexicano, adecuado para todo tipo de creencias.

11:56AM PDT on Mar 29, 2014

actually if the teacher had any clue what Jesus preached half the time she would find out He followed much of Zen…..a school of Buddhism. Half of his cryptic statements were simply Zen word choices.

11:38PM PDT on Mar 28, 2014

Everyone has the right to believe how they believe. Should not be called names because beliefs are different.

6:42PM PDT on Mar 28, 2014

I'm glad that C.C. and his parents won the suit. what an ignorant, pompous, poor excuse for a teacher!

5:42PM PDT on Mar 28, 2014

Thank you for your comment Don S...shame there isn't a Petition as well with this article to ask that this "teacher" be removed.....I for one would certainly sign...she broke the Law..money was spent defending her actions..and now she is still being rewarded..in the way of a salary..better it be spent on the students or educating the teachers in matters of the Law so this can be avoided in the future.. Our Government here is trying to water down our Anti-discrimination Laws...more in line with the US..that's the last thing we need is to become another State of America...

12:15PM PDT on Mar 28, 2014

SANDRA F: What?

Is this really about religion or the teacher? The student is question could have been Jewish, Catholic etc. IT really doesn't matter. The TEACHER is an "ignorant', "bigoted", "uneducated" witch who does not deserve to be in any classroom, now or ever.

Some of you folks should be taking your PERSONAL bickering off site. Don and WE CAN! :-))

12:03PM PDT on Mar 28, 2014

James? How does it feel to be the lower end of a mop being used on a floor?

Rainbow doesn't have to call in alter egos in any way shape or form, has been doing a great job of discrediting your positon (or lack thereof), and it appears to pretty much just about everyone here that he has been mopping the floor with you.

Hope you are enjoying being dunked in a pail of soapy water over and over again and then being swished across the floor.

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