‘Convert or Leave,’ Public School Tells Buddhist Student

What’s a Buddhist sixth grader to do when his own public school teacher berates him for not being a Christian? Transfer, evidently. Despite a constitutional guarantee to religious freedom, young C.C. Lane in Sabine Parish, Louisiana found things so unbearable that he now travels 25 miles each day just to attend a school that is more tolerant of his beliefs, reports Raw Story.

To be clear, Lane has not been accused of trying to spread Buddhism to his fellow classmates. Instead, it was his teacher, Rita Roark, who is said to have gone above and beyond to push Christianity onto her student. When Lane’s parents complained about the harassment of their son, school officials suggested they convert faiths to solve the problem.

In light of the incident, the ACLU is taking up the family’s case by suing the Sabine Parish school district. Marjorie Esman, head of the organization in Louisiana, said, “Public schools should be welcoming places for students of all backgrounds. 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.”

As lawsuit documents detail, Roark told Lane he was “stupid” for not believing in God, trashed the Big Bang theory and insisted that the fact that apes haven’t turned into humans is proof that evolution is fake. On a test she gave to her students, Roark included the following question: “ISN’T IT AMAZING WHAT THE ___________ HAS MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Yes, that’s thirty-two exclamation points, yet not a single question mark to conclude what appears to be a rhetorical question.) After he didn’t take the bait and fill in the blank with “Lord”, Roark berated him during class. Why it was relevant for a “science” teacher to ask this on a “science” test is still unclear.

Unfortunately, it seems like Roark is not an anomaly in her school. On the whole, the staff seems committed to making the public school a Christian institution. The school walls are covered with images of Jesus and teachers regularly lead their students in prayer. Even the electronic marquee in front of the building features a variety of Bible verses.

According to the parents, when they went to the superintendent, Sara Ebarb, to address the larger problems, Ebarb reminded them they lived in the Bible belt. She recommended that if they weren’t willing to become Christians that they should move to another school district with “more Asians.”

Clearly the Sabine County schools have overstepped their authority, so now they will face the wrath of the ACLU in court. Remarkably, the school system could have probably gotten away with establishing a very Christian atmosphere if it didn’t also decide to bully one of the only kids of a different faith in attendance. By not demonstrating any amount of tolerance, however, the school officials basically necessitated a lawsuit to make a change.

Lane is probably not alone in this predicament either. Last year, the state of Louisiana 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 Buddhist (or just non-Christian) students may find themselves with little choice to sit through classes that criticize homosexuality and evolution, and that tax payer dollars are paying for this “privilege.”

Angry? Sign this petition to ask Sabine Parish school officials to apologize to C.C. Lane.



Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harper3 years ago

Gee whizz

Wayne Bradley
Wayne Bradley3 years ago

My brand of Christianity teaches us to "love your neighbor as yourself." Today's (March 23, 2014) Gospel reading has Jesus talking with a Samaritan woman at Jacob's well. He did not criticize her beliefs or condemn her for having five husbands and living with another who was not her husband. When will my fellow Christians learn to accept others as they are and love them unconditionally?

Sofia B.
Sofia B3 years ago

Didn't Jesus teach tolerance?

I'm not a Christian (though I grew up protestant), but I always wonder why Christians nit-pick the bible and place some verse above another (often in the same scripture) and how they place the Old Testament before the New Testament when it is clearly stated that Jesus was a new way, with roots in the Old but still making a replacement.

What about the golden rule and treat your neighbour as you would like to be treated yourself? As far as I know Jesus isn't said to have treated people differently depending on one thing or another.

Joani McBride
Joan McBride3 years ago

I appreciate how many have responded to this story and some to my comment. I guess I really don't understand why they do it either but in a long life, one thing I have learned is that bullies, bully. It matters not if it is faith or politics, business or inter-personal, bullies will bully. I am heartened to see that so many of us have had the platform to call this one bully on her behavior. And I thank us for responding.

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H3 years ago

I do not understand these people, who in the name of christianity or whatever religion they are, use that religion to bully, abuse and torment others just because they don't smoke the same peace pipe. Now mind you, I am not a holy roller so that is probably why I don't see it "their way". The US has been based on religious freedom since its inception. Why has religion been turned into a world-wide battlefield using any excuse to light the fuse. Why are people in position of authroity over children allowed to treat children in this manner with no recourse from the school?

Natasha Hull
Past Member 3 years ago

This is why the U.S. ranks so low in academics! Both the teacher and School Board should be sued for the following: HARASSMENT, DISCRIMINATION, EMOTIONAL DAMAGES, and ENDANGERMENT OF A CHILD!!! Having allowed and advocated such grotesque behavior.

I live in the bible belt, and I’m not a Christian, and I will NEVER allow someone to push their belief system on my children- especially the School system! Once again another intolerable side of religion rears its ugly face.

David B.
David B3 years ago

and there it is people , your kind loving Christian religion . or thank you for shit . and this is wonderful Louisiana ? I can see now why the oil well blew and Katrina kicked the shit out of you. nothing less than you good christians deserve.

Dale O.

Gwen M mentions: "While I believe in Christianity, it is not a faith that is supposed to be forced on others. It is supposed to be a matter of free choice."

In a democratic state, one would hope so since the U.S. is not a undemocratic theocratic state. This behaviour occurred in a public school system. Not in a privately run religious school where parents send their children to get some form of a religious education. If the teacher is so determined to push a religious agenda in a science class, perhaps her future (along with the rest of the staff with a similar outlook) is teaching in the private religious schools. The forcible way of pushing one religion onto others should have been left in the past with the Christian Crusades.

Dale O.

sharyn w, something you mentioned is puzzling. What precisely is 'professional mental health?' There are professional ethics and hopefully a comprehension about how one conducts oneself in a given profession. But, 'professional mental health'? Are you suggesting career counselling as in bringing this teacher up to speed in how she needs to respect the diversity of all students that she teaches in her classroom in a secular society?

Allan S, I imagine that TYFS likely means Thank You For Sharing.

Allan Shuman
Allan Shuman3 years ago

Dear Roxana: What does TYFS mean?