Recently, four teachers at Lumpkin County High School abandoned their classes to hold a prayer with students. The FFRF sent the school a letter that hits the nail squarely on the head with a ten-ton swing.
The letter pointed out that “Teachers left classrooms unattended — the gravity of that offense cannot be overstated. … A medical emergency or fight could have broken out in the unattended classrooms.”
FFRF also pointed out the complicity of the principal: “Either he knew this was happening and didn’t stop it or he did not know that a significant portion of his charges and employees were violating the Constitution, state law and school rules. Each is a serious dereliction of duty.”
Not only was what the teachers did blatantly illegal, it was an egregious exhibition of irresponsibility. So when superintendent Dewey Moye found out, you know that he was livid on behalf of the students who lost out on the education the school is there to provide.
Just kidding! It’s the American South – at the same school where a teacher paraded students through the cafeteria in KKK robes in 2010. So…yeah.
The letter from FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel was sent to Moye after he publicly stated that there would be no “consequences for any employee or any student” involved in the May 1 episode. FFRF informed Moye that such leniency shows unconstitutional favoritism to religion and that it will “encourage participants to repeat the crime.” As one student participant told that media: “I would do it again tomorrow.”
That is the absolute wrong answer.
If you read the rest of the release by the FFRF, you’ll see that the prayer incident is the most recent in a long line of offenses against religious neutrality (and, thus, equality in the school). Given the region and all that is going on, it’s very likely that all Dewey Moye is hearing is support from the locals. I emailed Andrew Seidel and he said parents of students are now sporting “LC Strong” t-shirts. “LC” for Lumpkin County and the “t” in strong is a cross. How Christian of them to take the symbol of their faith and to associate it with willingness to break the law and complete lack of empathy for non-Christian students (as well as a complete lack of offense when their children are allowed to skip out on being educated). And they wonder why atheists like me have a beef with Christianity…apparently I care more about their kids getting educated than they do.
In fact, one parent commented on the reddit post for the FFRF’s release saying that when her atheist daughter spoke out against this prayer she was told she could forget about being on student council:
I live in Lumpkin County and have children in the school system. This is a very, very big deal here: the Superintendent Dewey Moye is a known quantity among those of us who aren’t jack-booted GOP/TeaTards: liar, functional illiterate, and shill for the School Board – of whom only ONE MEMBER has any experience in the classroom. Having lived here for 20 years (and I own three businesses in the county), this stinks to high heaven of premeditation. My daughter spoke out against this as it was happening, and was told that she “might as well forget about being on the Student Council” by faculty and other students. This is what we’re fighting against in North Georgia- please upvote and make our fellow Redditors aware? /edited for grammar and punctuation
Oh, you are a good student who is invested in the school and wants to be a part of its leadership? Sorry, at Lumpkin leadership means falling in line the lawbreakers, not damning the consequences in order to stand between them and the minority students at the school who the laws were designed to protect.
Anyway, since superintendent Moye is getting so much local encouragement to protect the lawbreaking, negligent teachers in his employ, how nice it would be if atheists across the globe got a hold of his email address…which is firstname.lastname@example.org?
Here’s what I sent Dewey Moye (at email@example.com):
Even if religious endorsement by government employees (like teachers) were not against the law, any administrator who takes the charge of providing students with a sound education provided by responsible teachers seriously would be apoplectic when informed they abandoned their classrooms to pray. Your apathy can only be the product of not taking that charge seriously or of being so steeped in Christianity yourself that you think breaking the law and shorting students a day of education is permissible if it empowers your religion. I think it’s ironic how similar the two are.
I’m aware local Christians are demonstrating a similar obliviousness to the law, and are cheering on the potential loss of tens of thousands of dollars (and possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars, as has been the standard in recent cases) earmarked for education, which they cannot see through all their fervor for teachers endorsing their religion. I could expect that kind of rank uncaring from parents, but it is your job to look out for the best interest of the students. To see you take no action when your teachers fail them as educators is bad enough, but for you, the administrator who is supposed to be frugal with the limited funds of your school to stare down a foredoomed and expensive lawsuit betrays an unforgivable level of care, competence, or both.
Despite my lack of optimism, I’m hoping I will have sent this letter in error, and that by the time it reaches you that you will have already decided to do your job and state the obvious: Lumpkin County High School cares greatly for providing good role models for its students and will prove it by abiding by the law and by punishing teachers who fail to do so. If that’s the case, feel free to ignore the contents of this letter.
But if this is not the case, if your faith has made it impossible for me to appeal to your sense of fairness or societal responsibility, then I do have one request: when the lawsuit happens, and the district ultimately loses it, you may find yourself tempted to blame atheists like me for depriving the school of funds intended for education. Remember this letter at that time, and be reminded that you had the opportunity to do right by the law and failed. The responsibility will belong not to the religious parents who encouraged you to fight a legal battle that could not be won, nor will it belong to the atheists who begged you to stop breaking the law. The responsibility will belong, at that point, exclusively to you. The dearth of education dollars will be no more the fault of law-abiding atheists than it is the fault of the police officer that a thief decided to steal.
The nation is catching wind of this story now. Your concern at this point is no longer just how local Christians see you and LCHS, but how a diverse and fair-minded world will judge your school.
Make the right choice and fix this.
Ed Brayton is on this, and calls down Moye for doing some serious double talk on the issue.
Now here comes the double talk. Moye says that everyone was acting within their constitutional rights — but that they can’t do it again.
Moye said that the students were within their rights.
“I believe it’s a Constitutional right to pray, yes I do. I believe they can do so at their desk, as long as they do not disrupt the school day,” Moye said.
Moye says he realizes what happened Wednesday cannot happen again. He admits some parents called to complain about the prayer, but he says that going forward, procedures and policies will be followed.
While he said that he will not discipline the coach and students, Moye says from now on, there will be no prayers during school hours.
No, you don’t get to have it both ways. If you genuinely believe that they were acting within their constitutional rights, then you can’t prevent them from doing it again. And of course, this was disruptive to the school day because they didn’t go to class when they were supposed to. This is all nonsense. The coach should be disciplined for it and the students should be given unexcused absences from class.