The Christian Sermon That Public School Students Were Forced to Listen To

Last week, we found out that members of Pinelake Baptist Church in Mississippi seemingly extended the boundaries of their church to Northwest Rankin High School, where they hosted a mandatory assembly all about how students need to accept Jesus in their lives.

After not receiving a reply from administrators, the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center has filed a lawsuit against the district and the school’s principal Charles Frazier.

Even more fascinating is the plaintiff: M.B. is only 16, a junior at the high school. Because she can’t file the lawsuit herself, her 18-year-old friend Alexis Smith, a member of the AHA, is helping her out.

I don’t know if you normally read lawsuits, but this is one you want to check out (PDF). It goes into incredible detail about what happened at this assembly. First, they showed a video in which young men talked about how Jesus saved them from their “troubled lives” (one liked pornography!)

And then, on stage, came the church representative to talk to the kids. The transcript of his speech is documented in the lawsuit:

“Each one of us has a story and the story that you guys heard from those guys up there [in the video] is where they used to put their hope in… the first one was in his grandfather. For some of them it was a relationship with a girl or just a friend. For some of them it was maybe it was alcohol or drugs. And that’s where they found hope. But the fact is every single one of those guys that shared there story told you that they came up empty. Because they were broken and because these things are material and they run out and they are of this world.

So maybe many of you struggle with the same things you come from a home in which your parents divorced at an early age… you have a scar in your life and you begin to try to fill it with something of this world and it ran out, it didn’t satisfy you and so you continue to search and you continue to look and it became a greater problem. We are here today to tell you where we find our hope. We find our hope in Jesus Christ.

As I say that I know some of you go, ‘Yeah I know who Jesus is and I’m not really… I’m not about that life.’ And we know it is not cool for us to stand up here and tell you that we follow Jesus. We understand that. But that’s okay. Because we care about you so much that there is no way that we could graduate from high school and have a hope that we believe is for our eternity and not share it with you guys. How selfish of us would that be. That we know there is a life changing hope out there and we not share it with you.

Some of you may not know who Jesus is and say ‘who is this Jesus?’ Jesus was God’s son and he came to earth over 2,000 years ago and for 33 years he walked the earth. He lived a perfect life. Something that no one else has done. He lived a perfect life. See we all in our past, we all have messed up. We’ve all failed. And it is because of this that our relationship with God is [unclear]… there was a gap between us and God because God is perfect and human is not. Then Jesus came knowing the end was in mind and his ultimate purpose to come to earth was to die. Not a normal death. But a death for each and every one of you and a death for me. That was his purpose. See, before Jesus came, innocent blood had to be shed for our sins. There had to be an animal that was sacrificed to atone for our sin. There had to be innocent blood. So Jesus came and he was the innocent blood because he lived a perfect life. He was that innocent blood. See the last few years of Jesus’ life he traveled from region to region and country to country and he had 12 disciples that followed him everywhere. And he talked about the hope he was bringing.

And he did many signs of miracles, he made the… [unclear], the blind could see, the deaf could hear, he would cast out evil demons, he would drive them out. But the people of that day dissed [unclear] who he was even though he did all these things, they still dissed [unclear] who he was because they thought Jesus was coming as an earthly king. They thought he was coming to reign here. And be glorified here. But that is not what Jesus came to do. Jesus came to be last. When he was on earth Jesus came to be last… And so even though Jesus was perfect he was condemned as a man that ought to die. And he was beaten, he was spit on and he was mopped and he was whipped and he was he was nailed to the cross. And when he was nailed to the cross [for] your sins, all your past failures, all your present failures, all your future failures, all my failures were nailed to the cross with Jesus. Then he died. But, see, our hope is not in the death of Jesus. That’s not where we find hope. But our hope comes three days later when on that Sunday morning the disciples… went to the tomb where Jesus was. They found that the stone had been rolled away and in its place was the angel of the Lord and the Angel Lord said he is not here for he has risen. Our hope is in the life that Jesus offers. Because he defeated sin. He defeated death. And he is victorious. And Jesus offers the same life to you, forgiveness, grace, love, mercy and hope for each and every one of us… Before Jesus we were dead in our sin. But Jesus came to give us life. He came to bridge the gap. He laid down his life and the gap between us and God so that through him we may have life abundantly. As Christians God calls us to more than just a Sunday life… More than just saying I believe in Jesus but not acting like it… us guys will tell you we’re not perfect we don’t claim to be and we don’t want to be because if we were perfectwe wouldn’t be Jesus. We still struggle just like all of you. Though we try on a daily basis to have a relationship with God. That’s what he calls us to… a daily relationship with God. In which we… learn more value and try to live a life that exemplifies that. But we still mess up… but that’s the beauty of the gospel is that we are not who we used to be, our identity is not who we used to be, it’s not in our previous failures, it’s in Christ. As a Christian our identity is in Christ and what he came to do for us.

And then he led everyone in prayer. Because, you know, the sermon wasn’t enough.

This was an assembly. A public school assembly. And students weren’t allowed to leave. Seniors, juniors, and sophomores were subject to it (the freshmen assembly was postponed).

Among other things, the AHA is requesting that the courts pronounce that this assembly was a Constitutional violation and prohibit Pinelake Baptist Church from ever presenting at any public school ever again.

And when they win the case, I hope M.B. and Alexis get honored for bringing this situation to the public’s attention. Who knows how many more assemblies like this are going on because students have no idea how illegal they are? These students are heroes already but they’ll deserve even more recognition after this is all over.

(image via Shutterstock)

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.


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