What is going on in Lebanon, Missouri?
Last year during a public graduation ceremony, Lebanon High School Principal Kevin Lowery made a controversial commencement speech in which he said, among other things, that God is “reflected in the very fabric of our nation.” He then lamented that it is “inappropriate and even illegal to mention God at high school graduations.” Yeah, it is.
Unsurprisingly, the R-3 school district quickly issued an apology over Lowery’s remarks after a video of the sermon – let’s just call it what it is – went viral on YouTube. At the time, I felt that the district’s apology was less than sincere, and it seems I was correct.
Last week, I came across a post in one of the many atheist forums I frequent that caught my attention. One of the other members (who wishes to remain anonymous) put up a picture of a classroom in Lebanon High School proudly displaying a large picture of Jesus near some other Christian paraphernalia [pictured above].
After speaking with this person, they showed me several other images that they had taken at the high school.
One of the photos is of a poster in a bathroom that says, “Grace isn’t a little prayer you say before receiving a meal, it’s a way to live.”
Another is of a sign that says “Mrs. Rogers is reading: The Spirit of Python: Exposing Satan’s plan to squeeze the life out of you”
According to my anonymous source, “Almost all of the ‘Mr./Mrs. Is Reading ___’ signs were religious books.”
Now, teachers are more than welcome to have small, personal religious items that are not a distraction or endorsement of religion; a small crucifix necklace or a tie with a cross on it (this is Missouri, so I’m only speaking of Christians for obvious reasons) certainly wouldn’t be a violation, nor would they be offensive or considered endorsements of religion. However, the combination of the Jesus picture, prayer poster, endorsement of religious literature, and who-knows-what-else is almost certainly above and beyond anything that can be considered permissible or appropriate in a public school.
After last year’s graduation fiasco, Hemant Mehta asked to hear from Lebanon High Schools students that were “who were offended or upset by his [Lowery’s] comments.”
Mehta heard back from a student, as did the blog Why Evolution Is True. Given this response to last year’s graduation, it isn’t unreasonable to assume that there are many students in the Lebanon School District who are equally uncomfortable and offended by the school’s overt religiosity.
Perhaps Lowery has a point when he said that “God is reflected in the very fabric of our nation.” God is in the fabric of our nation, like an unsightly stain on the fabric of a favorite article of clothing. And until people are willing to do the hard work to scrub it out, it will remain there.
So what is going on in Lebanon, Missouri? I think it’s obvious: the explicit use of the public education system for the insidious and underhanded religious indoctrination of children.
[All images submitted by a student who wishes to remain anonymous]