Christian Proselytizing in Public Schools Is Becoming An Epidemic

The New York Times has an article in today’s paper about the recent proliferation of incidents in which public school teachers/administrators are proselytizing to students — or letting others do it on their behalf. It’s not enough that they can teacher children about Christianity. They want to convert the kids, often against the wishes of their parents.

One anecdote regarding rapper B-SHOC was covered on this blog before:

At a school assembly here 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.

“We continue to see, on a regular basis across the country, public school officials who include prayer in school events, try to convert students and engage in other promotion of religion,” said Heather Weaver, a lawyer with the A.C.L.U.’s program on religious freedom.

“In recent years, public school officials have engaged in these activities even more aggressively,” Ms. Weaver added.

The FFRF and ACLU have gone after these cases, but one of the difficulties they have is that parents don’t always want to speak out. They don’t want to be seen as the “bad guys” when everyone around them supports the preaching — even though anonymity is an option. That leaves the watchdog organizations without plaintiffs — which takes away the opportunity to sue the districts. (If no one is complaining, on whose behalf are you suing?) Instead, they resort to sending warning letters.

This was up in a public school math classroom in California

That leads to a very important question: Are events like these happening more frequently? Or have the number of events remained the same but more people are now coming forth and reporting them?

Reporter Erik Eckholm doesn’t offer an answer but my hunch would be that both things are occurring. As Christians feel more persecuted (for no good reason), they push back. So you see more Christians trying to push their faith into the classroom — via History lessons, Creationism, mandatory moments of silence, etc. Meanwhile, as more parents (not always atheists and sometimes even Christian ones) become aware of what’s happening in their children’s schools, a handful of them who know that it’s wrong contact the authorities and try to put a stop to it.

Our job is to raise the consciousness of more people so they know what’s allowed and what’s not. A lot of the incidents taking place — preaching during assemblies, proselytizing in the classroom — aren’t “grey areas” of the law. They’re very clearly illegal.

When you hear soundbytes like the following one, it’s apparent that these cases aren’t isolated incidents. These aren’t accidents or honest mistakes. They are part of a larger plan to turn public schools into conversion houses for Christianity:

“I definitely think that we should try to get our relationship with Christ back into the schools,” said Mr. [Christian] Chapman, 43. “Jesus represents everything we want our students to live by.”

For non-Christians to hear this message, he said, is no worse than Bible believers being forced to hear about evolution every day.

Yeah, why should kids hear about (arguably) the most supported, brilliant, and important scientific theory of all time… when we can rot their minds with religion instead?

Unfortunately, millions of Americans — including many who run public schools — agree with Chapman. It’s our job to persuade them of how wrong they are.

(Thanks to Masada for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Anonymous

    It’s such a shame that America doesn’t have any churches where people can go to in order to listen to religious speech and discuss their faith.  I’m sure if you did then people would be less inclined to talk about it so much the rest of the time.
    /sarcasm

  • Anonymous

    “soundbytes”

    Damn finger macros.

  • Istj04

    Pathetic insecurities on display! Is anyone noticing a pattern between this crap, and NOTHING CHANGING with this alleged “deity” actually CHANGING anything? 

  • Anonymous

    In the past I’ve always thought that shunning individuals from mentioning God and reading bibles in public schools is a total violation of the First Amendment to the constitution. But after reading from blogs like this to have a much better understanding of what’s really going on in public schools, I now have a much better understanding what separation of church and state is all about – to prevent anyone from imposing religious doctrines upon others of different religion and beliefs in public places whether they like it or not. All the better to both support separation of church and state and uphold the First Amendment to the Constitution, don’t you think?

  • Michael Appleman

    How come this kind of thing isn’t criminally illegal instead of ‘just’ civilly illegal?

    • Anonymous

      Because it’s religion. Religion never has to be accountable for anything

    • Entalzar60

      I would guess that it is legal due to the US Constitution and FREE SPEECH.
      Just like you have the right to bitch and complain, others have the right to say  or nay say your words and actions.

      • http://profiles.google.com/ackiener Andrew Kiener

        Your guess would be wrong. In fact, it’s backwards. pushing a religion using govt resources (public schools are govt buildings, their employees govt workers) is the most direct possible violation of the citizens’ rights to speak and live free of govt coercion.

    • Entalzar60

      I would guess that it is legal due to the US Constitution and FREE SPEECH.
      Just like you have the right to bitch and complain, others have the right to say  or nay say your words and actions.

    • Entalzar60

      I would guess that it is legal due to the US Constitution and FREE SPEECH.
      Just like you have the right to bitch and complain, others have the right to say  or nay say your words and actions.

    • Entalzar60

      I would guess that it is legal due to the US Constitution and FREE SPEECH.
      Just like you have the right to bitch and complain, others have the right to say  or nay say your words and actions.

  • Lisalb165

    I have two daughter in kindergarten and they have been invited to their teachers’ churches, taught religious christmas music, been told that christmas is the “savior jesus christ” b-day. But, worst of all was a story that was home about how the candy cane supposedly came to be… it was ridiculously religious AND it was billed as fact! I called the principal and complained, then for good measure I went and saw in person. He was very respectful and said they would stop, but he did tell the teacher that I was the one complaining which, IMO, was unprofessional. He also made a point of stating how we lived in such a strong christian community (central Arkansas) that they have NEVER before had a complaint.

    • Paws_and_think

      Good for you! I’m glad you talked to the principal. Most people don’t have the courage to speak out for fear of being ‘singled’ out as a heathen or they fear retaliation. EX: One year a friend of mine was subbing and she asked if it was proper to have a Christmas bulletin board in school. After that, she never got called back to sub at that school. 

  • Tarkaan

    Please proofread your article.  You’re making the rest of us look bad.

  • Sinfanti

    I find it so ironic that I grew up with Catholic education up until I went away to university and I don’t remember ever hearing anything religious outside of the actual religion class or the occasional school mass.  It certainly never popped up in science class.  All things considered, it wasn’t a bad education outside of that one class (religion, not science).

    • http://www.facebook.com/Tracy.Bradley1 Tracy Bradley

      Same here, from K-8. Not much jeebus talk other than religion classes and mass, and when the parish priest would come in on occasion to give a talk. We even had decent sex ed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeremy-Gould/1216314893 Jeremy Gould

    I think this sort of thing has always been going on in our public schools. I know it was in mine, but nobody, that I know of, ever complained. I think that what has changed is that these incidents are being challenged more frequently, and that there are more of us who have the knowledge and the tools to challenge these abuses.  

  • Tinker

    I went to school in the 70s in a very Mormon area. This was the time when the courts were trying to iron out the morning prayer thing. One year we had a minute for silent meditation, the next nothing and then the next year it was a minute of silence or in some order like that. I do not remember them once saying a word about prayer or Christianity. We didn’t even play hymns in band. Every time I see a report on one of these I am shocked (except when it’s in the South).

  • Brit

    I wish I was the way I am now when I was in high school. My high school was really big on including prayer in everything. Basketball games, graduation ceremonies, ceremonies for 9-11 and Veteran’s Day all included prayers. In fact, during my graduation, one of the speakers was a local pastor who pretty much delivered a sermon. I also remember when they brought in a band to play for the student body. The band would play popular songs of the day, but intertwine religious messages between songs.

    My ex-boyfriend tried to start a school group for pagans, but was turned down. He argued that we had Prayer Group and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, but he was told that Paganism isn’t a federally recognized religion like Christianity, so they didn’t have to allow a club.

    There was just so much illegal things going on in that school, and I wish I had fought against it when I was there.

  • Sware

    I’d just like to add that many months ago, I believe on this site, a school was recognized for allowing a student secular group in spite of religious parents crying and railing against it.  I made a point to look up the school contact information for the superintendent and gave her my most heartfelt support for doing the right thing in the face of all the ignorant backlash they were receiving…even though I am no where near that district.  I hope all of us remember not only to stand up in opposition when there are such obvious violations happening around us, but also provide positive encouragement when we learn of those seemingly few instances where someone in charge did the right thing. 

  • Entalzar60

    I am a Bible believer and see no problem with being taught evolution.
    I also find the article one sided and not very informative.
    Could that display possibly have been for Veterans day?? 
    You lack pertinent information to make an adequate response viable.

    • http://profiles.google.com/ackiener Andrew Kiener

      Would Veterans’ Day somehow have made it legal? Have we changed it to “christian veterans’ day” while I wasn’t looking?

  • Entalzar60

    I am a Bible believer and see no problem with being taught evolution.
    I also find the article one sided and not very informative.
    Could that display possibly have been for Veterans day?? 
    You lack pertinent information to make an adequate response viable.

  • Entalzar60

    I am a Bible believer and see no problem with being taught evolution.
    I also find the article one sided and not very informative.
    Could that display possibly have been for Veterans day?? 
    You lack pertinent information to make an adequate response viable.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com/ Ani Sharmin

    From the NY Times article:

    “There’s not a lot of religious diversity here, so it becomes hard for people to believe that everybody isn’t a Christian,” said Mr. Wood, who was perhaps the only pastor in the county to publicly question the rally.

    This is something I’ve always suspected — that people just don’t stop and think for a minute that people who are different from them exist in the world and wonder how their actions might affect others.

    From the NY Times article:

    “I definitely think that we should try to get our relationship with Christ back into the schools,” said Mr. Chapman, 43. “Jesus represents everything we want our students to live by.”

    For non-Christians to hear this message, he said, is no worse than Bible believers being forced to hear about evolution every day.

    When are people going to realize that religion and science are not synonymous? I’m really tired of this “you get to have evolution in schools, so we get to have religion in schools” garbage.

  • Murrayc

    The “religious right” are always proselytizing and trying to get creationism taught in science class and then have the AUDACITY to demand the courtesy of their faith be taught in class so that “students will have a choice”.  First of all, science isn’t about choices, it’s about FACTS. And second, would ANY church exercise the same courtesy by allowing a scientist to explain how evolution works during a sermon?  

    Didn’t think so.

  • Tootie Frootie

    I find it quite fortunate that I have never been submitted to this kind of treatment in my public schools I have attended. In fact, it’s only until I reached college that I noticed the  various campus preachers on campus, preaching the gospel. Their views are somewhat disturbing to hear, in my opinion, but I pay respect to them. In fact, I voluntarily listen to what they have to say. The first amendment grants freedom of speech and freedom of religion, and since Christians are commanded by their god to evangelize and make disciples in all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, I suppose Christians only act this way because it’s part of the faith. What can you do about it? Sometimes, I wonder what would happen if everyone really turned to Christ and “every knee would bow” down to Christ… perhaps, evangelistic Christianity would be dead? At the same time, I worry about the cost: what about diversity and tolerance of people who are different from you?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1700342856 Li Li Jinsei

    There would be lynchings if another religion tried this in the same schools. Those hypocrites.  =P

    But I imagine it’s the matter of diversity. “Gosh, you mean everyone’s not Christian?” (and secretly in their heads, “Well they should be!”)


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