In 1996, Washington (state) science teacher Aaron Mason showed a video promoting Creationism to his eighth grade students. He also brought in a guest speaker (Jim Marisch) to reiterate the idea that the world is only a few thousand years old.
He was punished without pay for two days… and that was it.
You would think that if Mason made another speaker recommendation, even today, it would be thoroughly scrutinized.
You would be wrong.
Last spring, Mason suggested bringing in “Ranger” Gary Horton (below) to speak to students at Cheney Middle School — and school officials said yes without inquiring into who Horton was.
So who is this guy? Check out this video of one of his assemblies, given at Bellville High School in Texas last September:
A few notable moments:
8:48: “Your children may attend a school that doesn’t educate. Your Christian values can’t be taught according to the state.”
14:17: “You know why the eagle should always be at the top of the flag? Do you realize the eagle shows you the character of God?”
52:29: “Who are you going to blame one day when you look at your whole life and realize you bought into the wrong things… in life? It’s gonna blow up in your face. And those in your family will suffer. I tell you, this is the battlefields you’re in today. But with the power of the living Christ in your life, you can overcome anything. By the way, Jeannie always wears a sweatshirt and it has her motto, from the Scripture of Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ who give me strength.”
53:26: “… there’s only one way, one truth, one life, to prepare for eternity. And that’s to put your faith — your simple, childlike faith — in the work of Christ. Just ask him to be your savior.”
Somehow, administrators at Cheney Middle School missed all of that.
To Gary, the phrase “one nation under God…” is more than simply words in the Pledge of allegiance. Underlying those words is Gary’s understanding of his personal relationship to God through Jesus Christ, His Son, and how such a relationship can motivate each of us to accomplish great things for ourselves and our country.
With all that as a prelude, you’ll never guess what happened at the one hour middle school assembly…
[Parent Terry] Fiala found out about Horton’s speech after his daughter told him about several comments the speaker made to kids, including “If you don’t believe the holidays are motivated by Christian beliefs, you’re a coward” and referred to the children as “lambs, himself as the sheepdog and the Lord as his shepherd.”
“Apparently the school thought I would not mention anything about what I believe and what I’d die for,” said Horton, who believes his right to freedom of speech trumps the separation of church and state. “I’m convinced after all these years that the Constitution still protects my right to stand up for what I believe.”
Fiala was rightfully furious and he said as much to the administrators at the school, but so far they’ve only offered him a private apology. (He wants something more public.) The principal also sent an angry letter to Horton, which was reprinted in his newsletter:
My assistant Nicole met with you and clearly outlined what she wanted you to talk about and what topics YOU NEEDED to avoid. Your blatant disregard for our wishes was disappointing to say the least.
A man with your patriotism certainly should understand the law of the land explicitly provides for separation of church and state. You took advantage of a captive audience to deliver a message that we did not ask for, and one that is not even legal to promote in a public school.
Your references to religion throughout your presentation were unacceptable. Your lack of acceptance for people who believe differently than you has no place in schools.
I am stunned that you keep getting asked to speak at public schools and can assure you that I will do everything I can to make sure that other public schools don’t make the same mistake that we made, allowing you into our school under false pretenses.
I appreciate that letter. I want the administrators to send a version of that to all parents in the district. (Though it does partially incriminate them — If Nicole had to tell Horton what *not* to say, it suggests that they knew he had a habit of bringing up his faith at assemblies.)
I also want them to explain to parents what steps they’re taking to make sure people like Horton are never invited to speak at their schools again.
And I want to know what punishment Mason will receive this time. It’s not his first offense and you know damn well he was aware of what was going to happen.
If the administrators want forgiveness for what they claim was a mistake, there are simple steps they can take. Right now, they’re not doing any of those things, presumably hoping everyone will just let this die away. It shouldn’t and we won’t. A public apology would go a long way to regaining the trust of the community, a trust they’ve violated more than once now.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)