After Teacher Preaches in the Classroom, Superintendent Reveals Himself to be a Creationist

What happens when a teacher preaches in the classroom, saying the Bible is the basis for the Constitution and evolution is evil?

Well, if you’re smart, you let the Freedom From Religion Foundation know about it. That’s exactly what one family did. Their child attends Wynnewood Middle School in Oklahoma and the Social Studies teacher, Betty Carter, was stepping far outside the bounds of what’s appropriate to say in the classroom.

Betty Carter

Here’s FFRF’s Andrew Seidel (PDF), in a letter to the district’s superintendent, Raymond Cole:

We understand that [Carter] does not discuss Christianity in an objective manner as required by the law. We understand that she repeated egregious falsehoods to students, including that the U.S. Constitution was taken directly from the bible — that this is coming from a social studies teacher is all the more alarming. We understand that Carter also attacks evolution in her classroom.

Andrew noted that Carter’s husband (who is also the middle school’s principal) took down posters from her classroom that had Bible verses on them, which is good, but it’s hardly a serious reprimand.

So did the letter work?

Superintendent Cole wrote back to Andrew on Monday… and it may be the most appalling email I’ve ever seen a Superintendent write.

At first, he claims the situation has been taken care of: Conversations took place between the parent in question and both the teacher and the principal. The matter was settled, he said. He pointed out that the posters were brought in by students (which he admits isn’t an excuse) and the textbook referred to “religious principles” (though the teacher should not have taught it that way).

That probably would’ve been enough right there… but then he continued:

A couple of questions I would ask you is;
If you believe in evolution, why did we stop evolving? I mean, people are generally larger today than 2000 years or millions of years ago, but we haven’t lost a toe or little finger, etc.
What happens when you die, if you”re wrong? If I’m wrong, when I die I just die, but if you’re wrong, when you die….

I have a degree in science and I’ll admit some things were very confusing, or hard to understand, but in the end my faith in God forms my belief. I have seen God work in my life and I truly feel his presence. There have been many times in my life where I have fallen short but I know in my heart that God loves me and forgives my short comings, or sins.

I dont want to jump to any conclusions, perhaps you and many of your group are Christians and are just trying to keep Church and State separate. I would submit that the single greatest reason for the violence in our schools today is this so called separation, and that the further we separate God from our schools the nearer we bring violence and evil.

… the hell?

Evolution “stopped” and Pascal’s Wager? Those are on, like, the lowest rungs of bad Christian arguments. And it just digs the district further into a hole! After a teacher has been accused of proselytizing in the classroom, you shouldn’t respond with: She didn’t do it… but would she really have been wrong if she did?

Andrew couldn’t believe it either. So he wrote back and his response was just fantastic:

… I can assure you that this matter has not “been dealt with to the satisfaction of all concerned parties.”

the second half of your letter exhibits little remorse for Carter’s attitude; in fact, it shows a certain approval for her unconstitutional actions

Please understand that my personal beliefs have no bearing on the illegality of the Carters’ actions. But since you asked, I believe in the First Amendment. I believe in protecting minorities from the tyranny of the majority. I believe that religion is the single most divisive force on this planet and that it has no place in our public schools. I believe that ideas should be subjected to reason, debate, and inquiry, not blindly accepted…

I believe in selflessness and in fighting for causes bigger than oneself. I believe that every America, no matter what their beliefs, should strive to uphold and enforce the First Amendment. I believe in love, in family, and in making the most of this life because it’s the only one we have. In short, I am an atheist.

I renew my request that you inform the Carters and all district employees to refrain from promoting religion in the public school. Please inform them that they have a duty as employees to keep religion in the private sphere, where it belongs, and not a First Amendment right to impose it on vulnerable school children…

That. Was. Amazing.

It’s one thing for teachers to promote their faith in the classroom.

It’s another — far worse — when the leader of the district feels no urgency to put a stop to it because he buys into the nonsense, too.

Incidentally, the district’s mascot is the “Savage”:

I shit you not, this is Wynnewood’s real mascot

Makes sense in a place where religion reigns supreme.

***Update***: Andrew’s email may have done the trick. Superintendent Cole just wrote back to FFRF:

I assure you I will continue to monitor this situation. I do not encourage teachers to promote any religion in their classrooms nor do we have any student lead prayer at any of our functions.

I agree with your assertion that morality does not require religion.

Again, I do believe that Mrs. Carter understands this issue and I believe this will not happen again. As I said, I will continue to monitor this situation.

Furthermore, he sent this email to all of his principals:

Principals

Please have a teachers meeting ASAP, no later than Friday morning. At this meeting reiterate to the teachers that they are not to promote any religion in their classrooms.

Thank you
R Cole

Excellent. That’s what should’ve happened in the first place. Better late than never, though.

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.

  • CultOfReason

    That place just goes from bad to worse.

    First, a teacher that proselytizes in the classroom

    Next, a school superintendent that is a creationist and presents what Hemant elegantly refers to as “the lowest rungs of bad Christian arguments”

    And finally, a school mascot that refers to Native Americans as savages.

    Please tell me this is a “Poe” article and not real :-(

  • http://twitter.com/Grrrowler Todd

    The single most appalling thing, in a litany of appalling things from the school and district, is the school’s mascot. Savages?! Is it still 1620 in Oklahoma? Oh, wait…of course it is. I should know, since I grew up on Oklahoma (but escaped before permanent damage was done).

    • flyb

      Even more appalling is that the capital of the United States still has a sports team called the “redskins.”

      • http://www.facebook.com/memako Melani Marie

        I thought the Redskins were from Washington state. Not so?

        • Art_Vandelay

          No…DC.

        • Gus Snarp

          Off the top of my head I can’t think of one NFL team that is associated with a state. They’re all associated with cities, with the notable exception of the New England Patriots, who are apparently associated with an entire region. So yeah, Washington, DC, not Washington state.

          • blasphemous_kansan

            Minnesota Vikings?

            • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

              and AZ Cardinals and Carolina Panthers. No, I didn’t know that, but I’m obsessed with trivia so I had to look it up.

              • Gus Snarp

                You half win. I’d say Carolina refers to a region as well, North and South. Damn, none of these came to mind when I thought about it.

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  How about 3/4 win since (according to wikipedia) the Panthers represent two states. :-) But we can deduct 3/4 for using wikipedia :-)

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  And my actual NFL fan co-worker pointed out maybe both NY teams, and TN.

                • coyotenose

                  The Panthers are most definitely North Carolinian. Heh, they’re practically my neighbors and I didn’t think of them. Gotta be a good “the Panthers suck” joke in there somewhere that I can use against my friends. I haven’t done that to them in weeks. ^^

                • KaeylynHunt

                  As a transplant here from S.Florida(Imma Bucs fan,squish the Fish lol),I have to concur.I love noodling some of these yahoo Fascist Christians around here who magically lose their religion in a beer cup at the strip bar come game time.And if you don’t know,’Squish the Fish is Locals term for hating the Miami Dolphins,but as an Atheist,it has a delicious double meaning every time I’m stuck behind one of these TeaTalibans in traffic on 485!LOL

            • Gus Snarp

              You win.

        • Derrik Pates

          Indeed, the Washington Redskins are from Washington state. AFAIK DC doesn’t have any pro sports teams.

      • 3lemenope

        When they beat the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, it all evens out.

  • cipher

    I would submit that the single greatest reason for the violence in our schools today is this so called separation, and that the further we separate God from our schools the nearer we bring violence and evil.

    And this is one of the (many) reasons the Europeans laugh at us. (Western Europe, the fundies’ worst nightmare – just as ours is the banana.)

    What can one expect? These people live in isolated enclaves of artificial reality. The very concept of an objective reality apart from their subjective experience is both incomprehensible and deeply terrifying to them. Attempting to reason with them is an utterly futile endeavor.

    • SecularPatriot

      Lovecraft expressed this idea in what he termed cosmic horror; the notion that the universe is both beyond our scope to influence or change, and that it is completely indifferent to our existence.

      Or as I call it, reality. Though I disagree about the extent to which it can be changed.

    • SecularPatriot

      The very concept of an objective reality apart from their subjective experience is both incomprehensible and deeply terrifying to them.

      Lovecraft wrote about this concept in what he termed, “cosmic horror.” In short, it is the idea that the universe is both unstoppable and completely indifferent to our existence.
      Or as I call it, reality. Albeit I’m slightly more optimistic about our ability to influence it.

      • http://twitter.com/ThundalArchsys Thundal Archsys

        Our influence may be fleet and meaningless from some scope, but I know the kid I gave a wearable to to help him with his face-blindness is pretty fucking happy about the universe about now.+

        • SecularPatriot

          I should clarify, external meaning. There is no external validation for our existence. There is no great, gold-star giver in the sky.

    • observer

      To make matters worse is that these people are in pretty powerful positions that they really shouldn’t be in.

    • ertai

      I await the day when resistance to reason will be futile in a non Borg-like way.

    • Artemiy

      Whoa. Western Europe is the fundies’ worth nightmare? Sorry, I’m not from America, but when did Kommunists stopped haunting their nightmares?

      • cipher

        The Western European nations are secular, quasi-socialist societies that work (better than America does, at any rate), despite the fundamentalists’ constant insistence that a nation cannot flourish without slavish devotion to Jesus.

  • Tainda

    We stopped evolving? Is he serious? Does he expect to see the changes in his lifetime? lol

    And to the “Savages” mascot. WTBF??!! As someone with quite a bit of Native American blood that’s just BS. Some mascots honor and some just demean and need to be gone!

    • Randomfactor

      Why do people stop evolving? They join dogmatic religions.

    • Helanna

      Jeez, don’t be so oversensitive about everything. Of course no one *really* thinks Native Americans are savages, it’s just a tradition. It’s not horrifyingly racist if no one really believes it!

      /sarcasm

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Ragsdale/100001125191121 John Ragsdale

        Whew barely noticed the sarcasm. Ai wuz mad 2 u

  • James Dominguez

    What I can’t believe is a fucking school superintendent who doesn’t know the difference between “lead” and “led”.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001627228091 Alexander Ryan

      Whenever I called out a teacher at my Middle/High school for bad grammar and spelling, they’d cite the fact that they weren’t an English teacher. It’s like, yeah, that’s great and all, but you went through school same as we are now, right? Baffles the mind.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    When you look at the opinion polls on evolution- is it any wonder we don’t hear more of these? I’m pretty sure they’re out there, and only time will slowly uncover them. And while the exist, kids are at least getting the implicit lesson that “ha ha! some people think we came from monkeys, but, like, we still HAVE monkeys!”

  • glairy

    Anyone else check out their website? Looks like poor taste and incompetence is a universal quality around there.

  • baal

    You don’t get to opt out of evolution.

    • Jimmy R.

      I certainly hope they opt out of the gene pool.

  • busterggi

    “Please have a teachers meeting ASAP, no later than Friday morning. At this meeting reiterate to the teachers that they are not to promote any religion in their classrooms.”

    translation – tell your students not to talk about your preaching.

    • http://www.facebook.com/dotyhistory Brandon Doty

      Yes, I agree. Trust me. There will be a lot of joking around at these meetings who think we’re all a bunch of terrorists for wanting religion left out of the public school. And there will be a clique of teachers who will find a way to continue to bring out their religious beliefs at the expense of the students and teachers who disagree. It will require the vigilance of the non-believers to stand up and speak out.

      • Gus Snarp

        Yes, when you have a teacher proselytizing in the classroom, her husband is the principal, and the superintendent clearly supports what she is doing, tacitly at least, I think we can expect that things will only improve for a short while before another incident occurs. We can hope that the fear of a lawsuit keeps them in line, but I think an actual suit may be necessary before this is all over.

      • willy occam

        Most definitely. Let’s rework that statement with appropriate visuals:

        “Please have a teachers meeting ASAP [wink, wink], no later than Friday morning [tongue-in-cheek]. At this meeting reiterate to the teachers that they are not to promote any religion in their classrooms [eye roll].”

  • Gus Snarp

    The ignorance of that superintendent is just stunning. Stunning. But the mascot just tops it all. In a state that, thanks to the savage actions of the U.S. government with regard to the native population, has one of the highest proportions of Native American residents, that a school’s mascot is the Savage, represented by a Native American? That’s just sickening. They should change the mascot, but not the name. They should remain the savages, but replace the Native American image with a real savage: a U.S. cavalryman.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

      you know what is poetic irony? (i just moved to N TX and have seen some of this up close)

      in OK, the Choctaw Nation has gambling on their lands. the xtians in TX have RESISTED IN THE NAME OF JEEBUS having gambling in the holy land of TX pretty successfully. but a lot of fundies love them some gambling. they are forgiven for it every sunday, after a saturday outing up the road a few miles to the Choctaw casinos. which are pretty big and fancy, if i may say.

      as a result, and thanks to sensible leadership among the Choctaw, their people take that money and now enjoy really good schools, lots of native traditions and ceremonies, health care… mostly paid for by the descendants of the very people who slaughtered their ancestors in the name of jeebus and took away their lands. these gamblers’ football team is even called “the cowboys!”

      it’s delicious irony.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        n tx dyke?

        (sorry life is moving you to N. TX, assuming it’s for the reason I presume it is, but glad someone else has such a friend)

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        *chuckle*

        Well played, Choctaw Nation. Well played.

  • Gus Snarp

    The complete list of student organizations from the school’s website: Newspaper, Academic Team, Student Council, Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

    Now I have to admit that in my schools we didn’t have any real student organizations in middle school, it wasn’t until high school that there was an FCA on campus, but if there’s an FCA, then it seems like someone also is just itching to have a Secular Student Alliance on campus.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dotyhistory Brandon Doty

    As a former history teacher who spent 12 years in the classroom, if one of my colleagues was teaching like this I would have been the first to toss them under the bus. I strove for an equal balance in teaching the history of our nation and the world, but I NEVER would teach such obvious bovine scatology. I believe, in a sick, twisted sort of way, that it’s good that these nut jobs speak out for what they believe…it makes it easier for us to distance ourselves from them and to speak out forcefully against them.

    • TnkAgn

      This former history teacher agrees!

  • Witchgawd

    Oklahoma eh? That borders that theocratic state Texas, doesn’t it? The South. SMH

    • coyotenose

      Well, neither of those is part of THE South, despite Texas’s being the southernmost or second southernmost state and having Southern neighboring states. They’re a very different culture from the “real” South.

      However, both suck for almost identical reasons.

      • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

        yall need to check out eastern OR, or upstate NY, or southern IL, or western MI. you won’t be so smug about this being only a problem in the south.

        • http://www.facebook.com/dotyhistory Brandon Doty

          I concur with Southern Illinois, and as I have lately discovered, Indiana south of I-80 (for you geographically challenged, that’s pretty much the whole state). Although we have some decent Atheist groups in Indy.

  • SeekerLancer

    I guess he changed his tune when he realized he was going to get sued otherwise.

  • Cat’s Staff

    Please have a teachers meeting ASAP…reiterate to the teachers that they are not to promote any religion in their classrooms.

    How do you become a teacher in Oklahoma and need a special meeting to tell you that you can’t promote religion in a public school classroom‽

    • TnkAgn

      I think “teacher in Oklahoma” is the operative phrase here. Although I am sure there are many teachers in the “Sooner State” who are as mortified over this as we are.

  • Warren Senders

    And the teacher happens to share the same name as one of the greatest jazz musicians ever to walk the planet…grrrrrr.

  • C Peterson

    Is there any better indicator than “I have a degree in science…” that you’re about to hear a load of bullshit? What kind of school gives a degree in “science”? Or maybe, he thinks his Bachelor of Science makes him a scientist?

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    If you believe in evolution, why did we stop evolving?

    The response I’ve used to that one is, “That’s like looking at a clock with only an hour hand for one minute, and then assuming that the clock has stopped because you couldn’t see the hour hand move.”

    (sigh) The truckloads of patience it takes to explain these things to adults who use childish arguments to defend their childhood indoctrination.

    I have a degree in science and I’ll admit some things were very
    confusing, or hard to understand, but in the end my faith in God forms
    my belief.

    I think this translates to saying that he was challenged by the level of what he was trying to learn, which is certainly not a shameful thing. Some aspects of science are hard to understand. The confusion arose when what he was learning didn’t fit what he had been told as a child that he must believe. So he opted to dismiss anything in science that contradicted those beliefs. This is why he is still confused.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      That’s pretty good, although if you assume 2.3 million years of Genus Homo and 10K years of recorded history, it would be more like 15 seconds. I know, I’m being especially pedantic today :-)

      “some things were very confusing, or hard to understand”

      The lack of understanding of something isn’t evidence for God. It’s evidence for lack of understanding something.

      – Lawrence Krauss

    • Gus Snarp

      The clock analogy is very good. I think I’ll use that one.

      I don’t get the “degree in science” statement. I went to two colleges and one offered an associate of science degree and the other bachelor and master of science degrees, none of these were degrees “in science”. You could get a bachelor of science in chemistry, or in biology, but what is he trying to hide when he says he has a degree “in science”? Obviously a bachelor’s degree in chemistry doesn’t qualify one as knowledgeable about evolution. We have specializations for a reason. But somehow I don’t even think he has a bachelor’s in chemistry. He’s hiding what his degree really is. Maybe it’s in “management science”?

      This “I have a degree in science” claim is the worst kind of appeal to authority, because it is an appeal to false authority. You could learn plenty of biology in the course of a bachelor’s degree and be well versed in evolution. You could also load up on biology classes as electives while getting a degree in ancient literature and still be well versed in evolution. Or you could just have a decent biology 101 and read a few interesting blogs and books and have a decent enough understanding to know that the clock hasn’t stopped. But you could also get a PhD in Chemistry and know jack squat about evolution. Meanwhile, only the one with the PhD is actually a scientist. That doesn’t make them an authority on evolution, but only on their narrow field of research. Even then, their arguments still have to be sound, supported by evidence, and stand up to peer review.

  • Vic

    Religious thinking is a diseased state when it reaches the point of imposing one’s baseless ideas and rules upon others — especially children. This act is arrogant, small-minded and an encroachment upon the rights of others. It leads to genocide, war, hate, murder, abuse and suffering. The Christian right is forever pushing the envelope as they repeat the same tired old arguments founded on concocted “facts” that do not exist anywhere else but in their imaginations.

  • http://twitter.com/BBADWoman Sana Saeed

    I can’t believe their mascot is the ‘savages’….disgusting….and some people in the U.S. are talking about a post-racial society? Hmmmmm

  • Michael

    I’d be monitoring that guy for a while yet. He gave in so easily I’m sure he’s up to something. [Christians can be rat cunning sometimes]

  • McAtheist

    The Savages, with a native American as the logo. Is it just me or is it really that racially insensitive?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Ragsdale/100001125191121 John Ragsdale

    Im an agnostic beliiever. Evolution and God dont have to be exclusive of one another. I was raised to believe in both. Creationism in the literal form is just a way for primitive people to grasp with the awesome scope of nature and God.

  • Tom LeJeune

    I love when people claim school violence is a result of removing god from schools. If that were true why are there significantly more church shootings than school shootings? Maybe God has been forced out of churches too.

  • Sue Blue

    And a blatantly racist mascot, too? Apparently once you’ve sunk to one repulsive depth of ignorance, you’ve just got to plunge straight to the bottom. I wonder how many layers of slimy bottom sediment they can plow through to hit the very lowest shit-pits? They’re determined burrowers, that’s for sure.

  • Proud Aethist

    Fucking inbreds.. religion is for the weak of mind..

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    “If you believe in evolution, why did we stop evolving? I mean, people are generally larger today than 2000 years or millions of years ago, but we haven’t lost a toe or little finger, etc.”

    What. I just… what. *brain-breakage*

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=625429396 Andrew Kilian

    Damn Skippy!

  • Claude

    Yet another reminder from Friendly Atheist that things are always worse than I think.

  • Whoever

    I think we are missing the big picture here. It’s not what you believe or they don’t believe. It’s the use of the word Believe itself. Look at what the School Superintendent says; “If you believe in evolution, why did we stop evolving?”

    Throughout the Centuries we have been inculcated to think that belief in something is a requirement for it to be true. If we Believe in something it must be a fact, or true. Conversely if we do not believe in something then it must be false. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Whenever I hear someone say that they believe in the
    Theory of Evolution I do a facepalm. To say that you believe in
    something implies that you are given a choice. When it comes to facts,
    truths or even Scientific Theories we are not given a choice. You either
    understand it and accept it, or you need to educate yourself further.

    Look at Websters definition of Believe;
    Believe; 1 a : to have a firm religious faith

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/believe

    Do you have a firm religious faith in facts or the Theory of
    Evolution? OR do you understand and accept facts and the Theory of
    Evolution? Again saying you believe in something implies that you are
    given a choice when no choice was given. If I were to tell you that I do
    not believe in the Heliocentric Theory does that mean
    the Earth stops revolving around the Sun? Of course not!!! Belief has
    nothing to do with it. It is both a fact and a Theory and my disbelief
    changes nothing. By the same token if I were to claim that I believe that there is an invisible pink unicorn floating above my keyboard does my belief make it true? I don’t think so.

    Think of all the times you have quoted a proven fact or a Scientific
    Theory to someone only to have them look at you and say; “I don’t
    believe it!” As if their disbelief means it is no longer a proven
    fact. When someone tells me that they do not believe in a fact or a Scientific Theory, my reply is; “What does your belief have to do with the truth?” When they ask me if I believe in the Theory of Evolution, My reply is; “No. I do not believe
    in the Theory of Evolution. I understand it and accept it.” The same
    goes for Atomic Theory, Electromagnetic Theory, Germ Theory and any
    other facts.

    Throughout the centuries religion has brainwashed us into thinking that belief is what turns a claim into a fact. Without belief it is no longer a fact, but merely an opinion. To the religious and the ignorant belief is more powerful than knowledge.

    This may be a small distinction to make but I think it is a very important one to make. After all, every time we use the word believe we are playing by their rules and subconsciously paying homage to religious belief.

    • TicklishMeerkat

      Absolute agreement here. I don’t “believe” in the ToE et al. I understand them somewhat, but even if I did not, I at least understand that these principles are very well-supported through, in some cases, centuries of painstaking observation and research. We need to keep using that “B” word when describing stuff that doesn’t depend on beliefs at all. All it does is feed into Christians’ fantasies.

  • http://twitter.com/WoodwindsRock Emma

    “What happens when you die, if you”re wrong? If I’m wrong, when I die I just die, but if you’re wrong, when you die….”

    But what about THIS life? The one we actually know we have, and – to anybody who isn’t deluded by ancient superstitions with no foundation in reality – most likely the only life we have to begin with?

    Out of the many things that are horribly wrong with Pascal’s Wager, I always wonder why they so easily forget the wasted value of the current life they have. Fine, throw away your life for death. But me, I’m living for this life, and I’m living to improve this world for life’s that actually exist.

    “I would submit that the single greatest reason for the violence in our schools today is this so called separation, and that the further we separate God from our schools the nearer we bring violence and evil.”

    This again, really? I’d argue that the closer we keep ancient holy texts to our society and schools (with a widespread belief that they are actually ‘holy’ and not just mythology), the more violence and immorality we will have. Because the Bible, being reflective of only an ancient culture that has no relevance to our current culture, is full of both. And don’t even forget that even if it did actually have only moral teachings, we still have many believing that the only passage to heaven is believing in Jesus and repenting to him after doing bad things. In other words, they’ll continue to do bad things and never feel bad. Whereas, if we promote secular morality, people will actually develop a morality that they can’t toss out the window so easily.

  • Holly

    “I have a degree in science”……Christian Science doesn’t count.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X