Religious assemblies are bad enough when they take place at public high schools. But when an elementary school puts one on, I just get this icky, disgusted feeling. There’s a sense of “Let’s get ’em while they’re young” that suggests kids who are old enough to think for themselves will never buy what you’re selling them.
That’s why it’s so frustrating to learn that officials at Central Elementary School in Arkansas’ Van Buren School District saw no problem hosting one of those assemblies.
A letter sent by the Freedom From Religion Foundation this week offered details of what happened:
It is our understanding that on September 3, during the school day at Central Elementary School, the school announced, over the intercom, that there was an assembly for students where there would be games and snacks. We understand students were told the assembly was for “everyone.” We were told this assembly was run by school staff, who asked the children to raise their hands in response to various religious questions, such as if they believed in God, if they went to church, and if they had never been to church. They then reportedly told the students to ask other students “if they had Jesus in their hearts,” and told the kids if they didn’t know about Jesus, the staff members could help them. We understand one person talked about how God changed her life. We also understand faculty led two prayers at this assembly. Finally, we are informed there is a sign reading “God Loves You” in the school’s front office.
Superintendent Kerry Schneider offered an evasive answer to a local news station:
Schneider told 5NEWS he got the letter in an email at approximately 1:35 p.m. on Monday. He said that the issue was a personnel matter, and he couldn’t comment on it.
Schneider did confirm that the alleged incident is being investigated.
“We’re gonna have to look into it,” he said.
Schneider would not say if the events detailed in the letter actually took place.
Even if Schneider wants to avoid discussing this, you can bet the school officials knew what was going on. They staged the assembly and had faculty involvement. That doesn’t happen at an elementary school without knowledge of the principal and other administrators.
I’m glad one parent had the guts to blow the whistle on the school’s illegal actions.