What If I Took My Students on a Field Trip to Get Debaptized?

I help coach my school’s Speech Team.

I think I’m going to plan a pre-season party to get everyone pumped up about the tournaments ahead — We’re going to listen to a motivations speaker and get dinner together. I won’t ask the administrators for money, but I am borrowing a school bus. Another coach will pay for the gas, though. No one *has* to go, but seriously… they should all go if they know what’s best for them.

Oh. And on the way to dinner, I’m going to take everyone to a local atheist Meetup, where they can perform the Blasphemy Challenge on video, get “debaptized” with a blow dryer, and play Pin the Tail on the Jesus.

That should be ok, right?

You can imagine the reaction if any atheist did that. No doubt every Christian Right group would be after your head. Your bosses would (rightfully) get rid of you. FOXNews would have a field day.

So why has there been little to no repercussion for Scott Mooney, the head football coach at Breckinridge County High School in Louisville Harned, Kentucky, who took his players to get baptized?

The coach took about 20 players on a school bus late last month to his church, where nearly half of them… were baptized.

… the school district’s superintendent was there and did not object.

But Superintendent Janet Meeks, who is a member of the church and witnessed the baptisms, said she thinks the trip was proper because attendance was not required, and another coach paid for the gas.

Meeks said parents weren’t given permission slips to sign but knew the event would include a church service, if not specifically a baptism. She said eight or nine players came forward and were baptized.

“None of the players were rewarded for going and none were punished for not going,” Meeks said.

Surely, even the Religious Right isn’t defending this…

Oh, wait. Enter Mat Staver:

… Staver, founder and general counsel for Liberty Counsel, an Orlando-based group that provides free legal assistance in religious liberty cases, said there was nothing wrong with trip as long as it was voluntary and no public funds were used. He compared it to a coach inviting players to attend a play or to go see a baseball game.

Unless the bus was owned by the coach, public funds were used. And again, I ask what Staver would be saying if this wasn’t a Christian coach but an atheist one.

The students are saying they knew the church visit would be part of the trip. This coach knew exactly what he was doing.

One mother is hopefully taking action:

[Michelle] Ammons, who lives in Big Spring, said that she is a Baptist but her husband, Danny, is Catholic, and that both feel like their son should wait until he is 18 to make important decisions on religion.

“We felt he was brainwashed,” she said.

She said she was prepared to drop the matter until she found out that Meeks attended the service. She said she consulted a lawyer in Elizabethtown but hasn’t decided what action she will take.

“They have no right to take my son on a school bus across county lines to be a church to be baptized,” she said.

No they don’t, and this coach and the superintendent should be out of jobs right now. They took advantage of teenagers who weren’t about to say no to their head coach and superintendent and abused their responsibility as educators.

There needs to be a bigger uproar over this. I hope Ammons pursues her lawsuit and wins.

(Thanks to Derek for the link!)

  • http://primesequence.blogspot.com/ PrimeNumbers

    What a load of hypocrisy in this case!

    I doubt such an event would have been kosher in the UK with their State Religion and religion in schools, never mind in the USA where there is church / state separation.

  • llewelly

    You can imagine the reaction if any atheist did that. No doubt every Christian Right group would be after your head. Your bosses would (rightfully) get rid of you. FOXNews would have a field day.You can imagine the reaction if any atheist did that. No doubt every Christian Right group would be after your head. Your bosses would (rightfully) get rid of you. FOXNews would have a field day.

    Not only that, a fair portion of the atheist community would repudiate you.

  • mattincinci

    What If I Took My Students on a Field Trip to Get Debaptized?…just make it a requirement that they all read “The God Delusion” parents would go crazy over that…kind of silly for a math class though

  • FranSeaLou

    I allowed my son to attend a trip to Lake Shasta w/my sister’s church, back when he was around 14 years old. Before they left, I was presented w/a permission slip, asking if we would allow him to be baptized in the lake during the trip. Now, the rationale for asking permission was “we know some parents would want to witness their child’s baptism, so we will not baptize any children whose parents object.” This was a freaking evangelical church asking permission to perform a baptism on a church trip, yet these yahoos think it’s acceptable to baptize kids behind their parents’ back on a school trip?

    Even if I were not an atheist, even if I were a rabid believer, I would object strenuously to adults baptizing my child w/o my permission and w/o my being there for the occasion. Baptism is kind of a big deal, right? Wouldn’t most parents want to be there? Wouldn’t most Christian parents expect to be there for such a momentous occasion?

  • Gabriel

    Atheist. Hell just take them to a service in the religion you were raised in. You were raised a Jain right? The religous right would hire assasins to have you killed.

  • http://www.americanthinker.com Jon

    I don’t see why public funding is the issue here. In accordance with separation of church and state, religious functions can’t be made a requirement of education. However, many voluntary organizations are supported with public funding. If there was a club that spoke German, the school would provide a bus for them to go to a German restaurant. Similiarly, these kids can volunteering to go to church with their coach. It would be discriminatory to not allow it. Its possible that certain regulatory procedures were not followed correctly (permission slips) but I don’t know the rules of that specific school district.

  • TJ

    never mind in the USA where there is church / state separation.

    There is??

    Sure doesn’t seem like it.

  • Shawn

    What If I Took My Students on a Field Trip to Get Debaptized?

    I’m betting this headline gets used (stripped of the actual post and context) within a year by that lady gunning for Hemant’s job. I’m picturing a YouTube video, or maybe a Powerpoint presentation.

    The coach should pay for debaptisms for any player whose parents want one. The school should pony up the bus again. The other coach should pay for the gas again. The superintendent should attend. After the debaptisms, there should be pink slips all around.

  • Shannon

    Wow. That’s amazing that this is considered ok by some.

    I wonder what that family group thinks about this? Heh, I wonder what Jon will say ;-)

  • http://www.debaptized.com RevWubby

    The mother in this story need not concern herself any longer. We at Debaptized.com have taken care of the situation bu debaptizing her son, as well as the school superintendent, the coach and the pastor of the church. We are nothing if not charitable!

  • Chris Jones

    This is just the sort of thing that tempts me to fabricate exactly the kind of alternate story that Hemet introduced at the beginning of the article, and then circulate it in order to make a point with respect to the inevitable uproar.

    I won’t do that, of course, because I’m fairly sure the valuable point made would be totally ineffective on those hypocrites who are supporting this travesty.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    If there was a club that spoke German, the school would provide a bus for them to go to a German restaurant. Similiarly, these kids can volunteering to go to church with their coach. It would be discriminatory to not allow it. Its possible that certain regulatory procedures were not followed correctly (permission slips) but I don’t know the rules of that specific school district.

    We don’t have AMENDMENTS TO OUR CONSTITUTION saying that LANGUAGE clubs can’t be supported by the government. The school is the government. THEY CANNOT PROMOTE A RELIGIOUS AGENDA.

    How THICK are you?

  • Christina

    The first I heard of this was through a religious site that was pointing out the hypocrisy of the ACLU saying that parents have every right to make sure their children don’t go to a church and choose to get baptized but no right to know if that same child gets an abortion. That was a Catholic website.

    Since baptism is an act of initiation and comes with an obligation, to baptize a child without the parent’s permission puts that child at risk of not being raised in the faith. It’s not something that should be done. Even from a non-religious standpoint a parent has a right to know where their child is and what they are being taught – permission slips should have been required, no matter what funds were used.

    So what the coach did was wrong, but that doesn’t make the ACLU any less hypocritical and vile.

  • Eric Mattingly

    Mr. Mehta,

    I actually live in the school district in question. For the sake of clarity, Breckinridge County High School (which I graduated from) is not in Louisville but in Harned, KY– a small town about fifty or sixty miles west of Louisville.

    Everyone around here is a bit divided about it all but nobody I’ve met denies the coach made a mistake. Anyway, I love your blog and it was cool to have my hometown mentioned (however silly the reason).

    Eric

  • Christina

    We don’t have AMENDMENTS TO OUR CONSTITUTION saying that LANGUAGE clubs can’t be supported by the government.

    Actually, that amendment to the constitution says that the government will not establish a religion or prevent the free exercise of one. It says nothing about the support of religions in general.

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

    This means that congress cannot say, for example, that the only valid religion is the United Southern Baptist First Episcopal Church and you’re no longer allowed to be Catholic or Atheist. However, it could, theoretically, invite the pastor to say the opening prayer, individual congressmen could attend services there, public funds could pay for transportation to and from, etc etc.

    But, it’s not like people actually read the constitution, and that includes the Supreme court.

  • Siamang

    If there was a club that spoke German, the school would provide a bus for them to go to a German restaurant.

    Jon. I know Mike already said this, but it bears repeating:

    Our Constitution doesn’t have an amendment forbidding the government from feeding children German food.

  • JSug

    I don’t see why public funding is the issue here. In accordance with separation of church and state, religious functions can’t be made a requirement of education. However, many voluntary organizations are supported with public funding. If there was a club that spoke German, the school would provide a bus for them to go to a German restaurant. Similiarly, these kids can volunteering to go to church with their coach. It would be discriminatory to not allow it.

    I agree with you on one point: that public funds are not the biggest issue here. The problem is that, whether or not it is stated as a requirement, having a football coach invite his entire team to get baptized is a gross endorsement of religion. Doing so in his capacity as a public school representative is, therefore, illegal. Do you not see how kids that might not be comfortable with the idea would feel pressured to participate? Using school district funds (the bus) is just the icing on the cake.

  • Siamang

    While we’re engaging the troll, anyone want to ask Jon if he would be totally cool as a Christian with any teacher rounding up a bunch of kids and bringing them to their mosque without parental notification? You know, just in case they wanted to commit to Islam?

    Or is it only cool for Christians to do that? Or does he feel that actually it’s not the place for high school football coaches to use their authority and access granted by the state to indoctrinate children in their religion?

    How much power do you want to give any government employee, Jon? Bear in mind, most teachers where I live are liberals and union members.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    What kind of baptism was it? Sprinkling? Full immersion? If it is not done right, then God some Christians tend to get really upset. Or was this done in a one-church community where everybody has the exactly the same beliefs? Religious people should be against this, not just atheists.

  • http://www.americanthinker.com Jon

    @MikeTheInfidel & Siamang:

    The government is not allowed to discriminate for OR against religion. In other words, if there is a secular club (one that speaks German) which is voluntary, than they must allow a Christian organization which is voluntary. Similarly, they must allow an atheist organization which is voluntary. Public funding is used to support all of these voluntary organizations, because as a whole they are seen as beneficial to student life and societal development.

    As I said in my initial comment, I question the criticism about public funding. The regulatory procedures (parental notification, permission slips, etc…) is a separate issue, as is the notion of what degree of expectation was placed on the players by the coach.

    The issue of whether it is truly voluntary seems to be a more worthwhile issue to debate than the public funding. Is there any evidence of discrimination against the players that did not attend the trip? Were these players not given starting positions that were deserved?

    If so, atheists would have a stronger case against this coach.

  • Delphine

    :/ If it’s good steak dinner then I’m willing to get baptized over it. Multiple times.

    You’re right, if an atheist did this he won’t get away with it.

    However, that being said, the Liberty Council, Liberty University, and the State of Kentucky appears to be VERY SPECIAL PLACES AND PEOPLE who are possibly from a different planet all together.

    I pretty much look at them as I would a zoo animal. They have very scarce critical thinking skills, and with that, they provide endless entertainment.

    I just wish I can poke them with a stick while I make fun of them.

  • Siamang

    I don’t think this is about clubs, Jon.

    It’s true, they must allow a Christian club. That’s not at issue.

    It’s about a teacher bringing the kiddies off campus for a little soul-washing revival.

    Would that be totally cool with you if it were a Satanist teacher?

  • Christina

    It’s about a teacher bringing the kiddies off campus for a little soul-washing revival.

    I think that’s the point. Whether Christian, Muslim or Atheist you would want to have a permission slip if your child was taken off school grounds. Even after school clubs required permission slips when I was in school. The problem with this is that such slips were not obtained. Where he took them and what happened is a moot point and almost anything can be substituted. Even going to eat German food, an Italian mama might object to that.

  • Myrealana

    Is there any evidence of discrimination against the players that did not attend the trip? Were these players not given starting positions that were deserved?

    Was there a possibility that there was the perception that those things could happen?

    Knowing the kind of influence that coaches, and particularly football coaches have on their players, that perception certainly had to exist at some level in at least some of the players’ minds.

    The question isn’t whether he’s allowed to be a Christian, or whether the church is allowed to baptize these kids, or even whether the parents knew what it was. It’s not about using a school bus vs. a church bus or a private car. The issue is that there is an inherent coercive nature to the coach/player relationship, and even the perception that there might be rewards for participating, or punishments for not is enough to make it improper.

    Imagine how upset people would be if the coach took these kids to a gay wedding!

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    The government is not allowed to discriminate for OR against religion.

    Nice equivocation, Jon.

    The government is not allowed to endorse an ESTABLISHMENT of religion, or to restrict the free exercise thereof. Not discrimination for or against religion, but ESTABLISHMENTS of religion.

    A state employee using public funds to sponsor a trip to a religious establishment for religious purposes is unconstitutional. Were this done with a club not organized by the school and not using public vehicles to do it, it would be A-OK.

    And no, public schools cannot legally form religious clubs. Students can, but not the schools themselves. So your example of a Christian volunteer group organized by the school is invalid, as it would be illegal.

  • Richard Wade

    Jon,

    Secular clubs, being voluntary, are not applicable to this issue. That is a red herring that didn’t work. The issue of using the bus does bring the misuse of public funds into it, but that is not as important as the inappropriate endorsement of a religion by a public school teacher not as a private citizen, but in his role as a teacher.

    The coach knows the kids because of his role as a teacher in a public school that is required by law to neither endorse nor prohibit the student’s religious views. In his role as a coach, he wields powerful influence over his students, both in terms of his credibility and is authority.

    From the aspect of his credibility, it is inappropriate for him to be implicitly or explicitly endorsing or promoting his religious beliefs to his students from his role as their coach. He’s not pulling his paycheck for being a minister, he’s being paid to be a coach. That means a coach for football, not religion. He has to be as good a coach for every student, not showing or even implying his approval or disapproval of any religion or lack thereof.

    From the aspect of his authority, it is inappropriate for him to be doing this because even if the outing is allegedly “voluntary,” there is a good possibility that the students will feel pressure to go along with it because they don’t want to get on his bad side. Even if there are no apparent bad consequences for the kids who declined, the very possibility that there could be makes the coach’s actions way out of line.

    He was foolish to put himself in that position by this action, and he also broke his ethical code as a teacher. Professionals are often fired for such transgressions, because they violate the trust that the public has given to them to fulfill their role and to not use their credibility and influence in areas where they don’t belong.

    So far, you’ve ignored several questions about what you would think if the coach took the kids, with or without using public funds, technically “voluntarily” or not, to something other than a Christian baptism. I’ll ask you one more time.

    Please tell us to which of the following events would be okay with you for the coach, acting in the role of their coach, who is paid by your taxes, to take the kids, and why:

    A Baptist baptism.
    A Catholic baptism.
    A Catholic mass.
    A Jewish service in a synagogue.
    A Passover seder.
    A Muslim service in a mosque.
    A Buddhist service in a temple.
    A Hindu service in a temple.
    A Wiccan service.
    A Pagan service.
    A Satanic service.
    A rite of initiation into any of these or any other religion.
    As Hemant asked, an atheist de-baptism.

    Freedom of belief has to be for everyone, Jon. You can’t pick and choose what you like and let that be favored by government, and discard the rest. You enjoy your freedom to believe as you do only because government stays out of it. Government, from Federal to a local public school must keep its cotton picking hands out of religion.

    So far in several different discussions, you’ve consistently ignored the many similar questions that I and others have posed to you, so one more time:

    When it comes to government involvement, do you favor freedom of and freedom from religion for all people or not?

  • http://. Marsha in TN

    I grew up in Kentucky, I went back to KY from CA and lived there for 10 years, I live in east TN now. This is the bible belt, these people do not get that anything they do regarding THEIR religion would offend anyone else. You should read the letters to the editor here. I’m offended practically everyday, but they look at you w/this blank look, like “but I’m a Christian” how can you be offended? Duh. It’s even the same w/the politicians, it’s pervasive. If you live here you have to deal with it. Either ignore it, or be pissed off all the time.

  • Siamang

    Silly Richard.

    Troll won’t answer a direct question with a direct answer.

  • Siamang

    I say it’s time to start baptizing kids Satanist.

    You know, there is a magic ritual for doing that in absentia.

    *edit* Done. Jon, you’re now officially a Satanist.

  • ATL-Apostate

    I say it’s time to start baptizing kids Satanist.

    You know, there is a magic ritual for doing that in absentia.

    *edit* Done. Jon, you’re now officially a Satanist.

    But Siamang, did you baptise him a theistic Satanist or an atheistic Satanist (aka, LaVeyan)? It seems even Satanism has it’s schisms. You don’t want TrollJon confused, now do you?

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    I actually live in the school district in question. For the sake of clarity, Breckinridge County High School (which I graduated from) is not in Louisville but in Harned, KY– a small town about fifty or sixty miles west of Louisville.

    Eric — I fixed this in the post. Thanks!

    – Hemant

  • Siamang

    You don’t want TrollJon confused, now do you?

    I did it twice.

  • Shannon

    Completely OT now but – You can be an atheist satanist? You mean they believe in satan, but not god? It never occurred to me you could believe in satan without believing in god. Isn’t the word satan specifically about the Judeo/Christian devil or does it mean something else?

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    From what I’ve heard, Satanists are not Satan worshipers or even necessarily believers in Satan. It’s all about imitation of Satan’s mindset – i.e., that God isn’t more worthy of worship than we are.

    Never actually met one myself so I can’t be sure how accurate that is.

  • Siamang

    I think, Shannon, that ATL Apostate is talking about Anton LaVey who conceived of his church of Satan as a philosophical church, and not as believing in a literal demonic entity.

    He took a lot of the trappings of organized Christianity and inverted and subverted them for his rituals. He was at least equal parts showman and shaman.

  • Shannon

    Huh, weird. I guess I don’t know what a satanist is then, lol!

    I don’t believe in satan myself but I don’t like the idea of a religion that names itself after a personification of evil. But I guess they are not using “satan” to mean that?

  • Siamang

    I think you’d have to read his stuff, and then look at it through the lens of the counterculture movement of the time. And then realize that he was trying to get people’s goat. Literally!

    He was being a showman, and self-aggrandizing. He was trying to shock.

    Other than that, I think the philosophy was probably something along the lines of Ayn Rand, which isn’t to my taste.

  • denelian

    erm… as a point, the religion “Satanism” is NOT about “worshipping Satan”, and has almost nothing to do with Satan – to the point where most of the “Satanists” i know don’t believe in Satan. Satanism is kind of like Buddhism or Shinto or other diety-less religious systems. the whole point of Satanism is to be selfish, it’s sort of the antithesis to most religions (diety or no diety) but is STILL theologically distinct from and different than “Satan-WORSHIP”, which is the religion that believes that Satan is really the true God, or whatever.

    erm… i am here via PersonalFailure’s Blog, “Forever in Hell” – she posted and linked to you, when the whole “Woman trying to get you in trouble but not “fired” for being an atheist and etc” stuff happened, so i moseyed on over to see what you had to say, and i’ve been a bit hooked :). i would have been here sooner, but i had a pretty large surgery on Aug27, and didn’t get to PFs blog until yesterday, and didn’t get here until today – but i suspect i will be a frequent visitor :D

  • denelian

    and while i was writing that, 4 other people wrote better descriptions. le sigh.

  • Kelly

    This really strikes me as I live in Ky and just had a big red flag thrown at me. Been here for 4 years and have never been around so much much religion in muy life. Owensboro, Ky public schools just posted the field trips slated for the year. On December 8 they will be going to Lewis Lane Baptist Church for an Advent Journey. Not being real familiar, I checked it out. What??? They will be learning the “real meaning” of Christmas and why Jesus died for our sins. Public school??? Does this warrant a confrontation? Pretty sure that is unconstitutional. Help.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    If you’re concerned enough to do so, I’d suggest contacting the ACLU, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. See if they have any advice for what to do, how to approach the administration, etc.

    Of course, if you don’t have any kids in these schools, you’ll likely not have any legal recourse, since (… somehow …) it doesn’t affect you at all. A parent of a student would likely have to bring up the grievance.

  • AxeGrrl

    Siamang wrote:

    anyone want to ask Jon if he would be totally cool as a Christian with any teacher rounding up a bunch of kids and bringing them to their mosque without parental notification? You know, just in case they wanted to commit to Islam?

    Uhm, Jon….care to respond?

    If you truly care about being (unfairly) labelled a ‘troll’, then you can very easily prove that you aren’t one by taking the time to respond to this essentially relevant question.

  • gribblethemunchkin

    Note that on Satanism, although Levays group don’t believe in God or the devil as actual beings (more paradigms to be emulated, or not), they do have a significant mystical part to their religion. Kinda similar to some new age religions that use magic (wiccans, pagans, Hermetics, etc).

    They are more occult than religious.

    That said, there is plenty to admire ib their philosophy, even if the ruthless, selfish nature thing can be taken too far.

    And crazy old Anton really was a bit of a character.

  • Laura Lou

    I can see why people might not think this is really unconstitutional — the school trip with baptisms was voluntary. But it’s unconstitutional the same way voluntary prayer sessions are unconstitutional. The key here (reiterating what Richard said) is that the coach acted as a representative for the government because he is a teacher at a public school.

  • http://www.bluefrogdesignstudios.com/thebluefrogsays/ The Big Blue Frog

    I had a conversation with a friend about ‘debaptism’ and what exactly that might entail. We finally agreed that sponging yourself down with a dirty sponge would suffice.

    Great blog. I shall return.

  • Jake K.

    If any Christians insist that it would be different for an atheist to bring students to be debaptized (for whatever silly reason they make up to claim it’s, like, so totally different) ask them how they’d feel if a Muslim teacher brought students to a mosque, where half of them made shahada (a public declaration of faith that makes one officially Muslim)…

  • Kelly

    I do have a 12 year old attending Owensboro Public Schools. It is a little intimidating to know I am such a minority here in this situation.

  • Siamang

    See Richard.

    I told you troll wouldn’t give a direct answer to a direct question!


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