An Indiana public high school teacher was fired after telling administrators and colleagues he refused to pray to some “mystical sky daddy” because he was an atheist.
High school German teacher Kevin Pack, 29, has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), claiming Middlebury Community Schools’ Northridge High School Principal Gerald Rasler fired him for complaining about the public school’s evangelical culture, and sending a faculty-wide email indicating he was an atheist.
Pack was hired by Middlebury Community Schools in August 2013. He taught six different German classes at Northridge High School, according to a faculty profile that’s been taken down from the school’s website.
About his complaint filed with the EEOC, Pack told The Goshen News:
I was retaliated against and dismissed for filing the religious harassment complaint against Principal Gerald Rasler and for being an atheist.
I refused to pray, be a Christian or go along with any of [Rasler’s] evangelizing in the school, and they dismissed me over it.
The school disputes Pack’s assertion that he was fired for being an atheist in a press release, claiming that poor performance was the reason his contract was terminated.
However, there does seem to be merit to Pack’s claim. In an email to all faculty and staff Principal Rasler wrote:
I have been asked: ‘What if we have a snow day during finals? OR What is (sic) we have a two-hour delay?’ Please get on your knees and pray for four good weather days during finals…
Pack responded to Rasler’s email the same day by replying to all. It reads, in part:
Since I’m an atheist and a mystical sky daddy has nothing to do with weather, I won’t be kneeling. I will be relying on science and the oftentimes inexact science of meteorology…”
According to the religious harassment complaint, when Pack later encountered the principal, Rasler “acted aggressively and hostile,” speaking to Pack “with malice” and chastising him “for sending the response email out. I responded to him, as I had in the e-mail, that I was an atheist.”
Principal Rasler admits that after the exchange he then threatened to fire Pack.
In his complaint, Pack also asserts that Principal Rasler “forced staff into prayer” at the beginning of school luncheons.
Again, an internal school board report confirms that Principal Gerald Rasler did violate school board policy 8800, which prohibits the use of “prayer, religious readings, or religious symbols as a devotional exercise or in act of worship or celebration” among staff members during school-related duties and activities.
Running damage control, Middlebury Community Schools Superintendent Jane Allen rejected Pack’s claim he was fired for being an atheist. Instead, Allen said Pack was fired because he received poor performance evaluations and listed several other complaints, including saying he poorly managed his classroom, lost students’ work, missed multiple staff meetings and was late several times.
Where there is smoke, there is fire. It is hard to imagine that Principal Rasler would have been as aggressive in attempting to fire Pack, if Pack had simply embraced Rasler’s religious faith, or at least accepted it in silence.
However, by challenging Principal Rasler’s cherished religious superstitions, Pack made himself a target. It is a dilemma many agnostics and atheists face on a daily basis. Often one must humor the obnoxious and ignorant religious zealot, or suffer the consequences.