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No More Christian Proselytizing In South Carolina School District

No More Christian Proselytizing In South Carolina School District

It has been nearly 50 years since the Supreme Court ruled that officially sponsored prayer in public schools violated the separation of church and state.

In landmark decisions in 1962 and 1963, the Supreme Court barred official promotion of religion in schools. That principle has remained solid, although conservatives blame it for what they see as the nation’s moral and social decline. At the same time, the courts and Congress have also reinforced the rights of students to pray on their own and to form after-school religious clubs.

Christian Prayer And Symbols Still In Evidence

In spite of these rulings, open prayer and Christian symbols have never really disappeared from some schools. Care2′s Robin Marty wrote about one incident here, and then there’s New Heights Middle School in Chesterfield County schools, South Carolina.

From The New York Times:

At a school assembly in South Carolina on Sept. 1, a preacher described how Christ saved him from drugs, telling his rapt audience that “a relationship with Jesus is what you need more than anything else.” A rapper shouted the Lord’s praise to a light show and most of the audience stepped forward to pledge themselves to Christ while a few remained, uncomfortable, in their seats.

Such overt evangelizing would not be unusual at a prayer rally, but this was a daytime celebration in a public school gymnasium, arranged by the principal for sixth, seventh and eighth graders. When the rapper posted a video on YouTube, announcing that “324 kids at this school have made a decision for Jesus Christ,” he drew unwelcome public and legal scrutiny to the event. It was the kind of religious advocacy that is increasingly coming to light, legal experts say, as school populations become more diverse and as the objection of non-Christians — or, in this case, the rejoicing of evangelists — is broadcast on the Internet.

Middle-School Student Sues His School Over Christian Activities And Wins!

As a result of this event, the school district was sued for holding a prayer rally at a school assembly and prayers at official events.

And now it has agreed to end its promotion of religion. A federal judge on Thursday made final a consent decree in which the Chesterfield County schools admitted to violation of separation of church and state. Under the decree, school officials may not encourage prayers at events or allow endorsement of religion in the classroom. The suit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a middle-school student who objected to the evangelical assembly and other Christian activities at school.

From ACLU:

“I’m relieved that the school is taking the appropriate measures to make sure that my child – and any child – will feel comfortable and welcome no matter what he believes,” said Jonathan Anderson, whose son J.A. is a student in the district. J.A. is referred to by his initials to protect his privacy while the lawsuit is pending.

(…)

“The district has done the right thing by acknowledging that school officials cannot use their positions of influence to persuade students to devote themselves to one particular religion,” said Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina. “We’re glad that the school has agreed to a reasonable settlement.”

Hooray For J.A.!

Standing up for your rights as a middle schooler is pretty amazing, so congratulations to J.A. for having the courage and moral conviction to step forward, and also for winning! Very cool!

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Photo Credit: Catholics.in.America

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114 comments

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5:06PM PST on Jan 9, 2013

Good on him! I'm so glad he was able to win this lawsuit. America claims there is separation of church and state, and yet religion infects every part of its system. I'm glad the two are starting to unravel.

11:12PM PDT on May 27, 2012

I can see a class for high school student on comparative religions but promotion of Christianity is definitely not proper separation of church and state. I hope the student and his parents win the law suite.

Not all of us are Christians, not all non-Christians are atheist some of us have other spiritual practices so unless I can have a local priestess come and teach your children about witchcraft then please do not assume you have the right to teach all children in a public school about your god - It is equally as offense to pagan parents to have Christianity crammed down their children's throat in a public school as it would be to Christian parents have paganism crammed down their child's throats. Public schools should be a place for every one's children to come and learn regardless of their spiritual beliefs or lack thereof. Maybe the public school system can teach our children one of the most important lessons necessary for a peaceful society = tolerance for those who are different .

10:24AM PST on Mar 7, 2012

The last time they mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

7:40PM PST on Mar 6, 2012

Henry: You've a valid point regarding their dressing like woman, perhaps it's throw back to bibical apostiles.Concerning taxes, I'm under the impression that churches are exampt from paying taxes?

6:54PM PST on Mar 6, 2012

Why are the catholic celibate priests wearing women's dresses and sodominizing altar boys not put in prison for breaking the law.?
are they above the law, The Vatican is a business and should have a business license and keep all of the records and tax returns that any business must.

3:23PM PST on Feb 21, 2012

great stuff glad to hear at least one state is taking this seriously

5:01AM PST on Feb 9, 2012

Way to go J.A.!

9:47AM PST on Feb 8, 2012

Religion should be a private matter. No one, including politicians, should be asked what their religion is. Since our Founding fathers gave us freedom of and from religion, it doesn't belong in the State. I, as a citizen, do not have to be any particular thing. I am just me, a good person, a good wife, mother, and grandmother. I donate to the less fortunate, and disease research. I try to be a good citizen. I believe in equal rights for everyone. I try my best to not be judgemental, although I become very frustrated with people who try to push their own personal religious beliefs on others. Most people have enough to worry about in their own lives, and shouldn't waste their time trying to live someone else's.

So, wouldn't it be nice if we could try and live in peace. When we meet someone just say nice to meet you. Not ask what religion are you, what political party do you affiliate with, are you gay, do you believe in God, or are you atheist?

2:19AM PST on Feb 8, 2012

I agree with Martha E. and other similar comments.

1:30PM PST on Feb 7, 2012

Freedom of religion means no public funding of religious practice and evangelizing so that everyone's religion is respected.

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