Texas Superintendent Defends Principal Who Reads Bible Verses During Announcements, Calling His Actions “Neutral”

Last week, I posted a few recordings of White Oak High School (Texas) Principal Dan Noll reading Bible verses during morning announcements.

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That’s obviously illegal. And it’s not the first time they’ve been caught violating church/state separation. The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent them a letter last October concerning prayers said over the loudspeakers during football games and coach-led prayers before the game. The district denied both charges.

They can’t deny the recordings, though. What’s amazing is how they haven’t even bothered to try.

Yesterday, Superintendent Michael Gilbert wrote this on his district blog:

The residents were offended at the use of scripture, demanding that it be stopped and calling for disciplinary action against Mr. Noll. I am fully aware of the practice at the high school and will not pursue any action against our High School Principal or any other member of our faculty/staff concerning this issue.

Let me be clear, this is an attempt to draw us into a contest of words for the sole purpose of giving the FFRF a large amount of free press/recognition that they and their very few members (1,200 in Texas) do not deserve. This group and others like it, are wanting us to provide them with negative quotes to use in the promotion of their agenda. We can and will make the adjustments needed to ensure our students experience a morally sound, positive character based education. There are a multitude of options to provide our students, faculty and staff the opportunity to express their First Amendment Rights as provided for in the United States Constitution. Let me also be clear that we have not (in my opinion) violated anyone’s rights and/or subjected anyone to undue stress. Bible studies and scriptures are allowed in schools. The requirement is that the material be presented in a neutral manner. It is my position that we met that standard with the morning announcements.

Let me paraphrase: Yes, we read Bible verses over the loudspeaker in the morning. No, I’m not doing anything about it. It’s perfectly neutral. That’s why Principal Noll also reads passages from the Koran and the God Delusion.

Keep in mind Bible Studies are perfectly legal… as an after school club. The Bible can be taught as literature. And students are free to read the Bible during school hours. But teachers and administrators cannot preach the Bible during school hours, and that’s what’s going on here.

This isn’t about FFRF. They’re writing letters on behalf of people who attend the school. Gilbert’s whining about FFRF is really just a distraction from the fact that he doesn’t care about the students in his district.

It’s takes a hell of a lot of Christian privilege to write something this arrogant.

When I was a teacher, I would have been mortified to learn that something I was doing made a student feel alienated. Noll and Gilbert have been told the problem with what they’re doing — students are afraid to speak up precisely because they’re don’t want to deal with the inevitable pushback — and these adults are defending the practice because they don’t give a damn what some students think.

If they see this as a popularity contest, then sure, Christianity will reign supreme in the district.

But if they’re interested in following the law and doing what’s best for students, then they need to stop proselytizing during school hours.

Let me say this: The only way this is going to stop is through a lawsuit.

FFRF has done the polite thing by sending two separate warning letters… The district has essentially ignored them. So now FFRF has to play hardball.

But no lawsuit can be filed unless a student is willing to stand up against these Christian bullies in the administration. I know there are alumni who wish they had said something when they attended White Oak — they’ve written to me — but they can’t do it now.

If you’re a student at this school and you’re willing to fight this battle, let me know and I’ll put you in touch with the right people.

We need another Jessica Ahlquist.

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