South Carolina School Pushes Christianity

South Carolina School Pushes Christianity September 22, 2011

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has sent a letter to the Chesterfield County School District in Jefferson, SC about a rather obvious First Amendment violation. The school apparently had a school assembly that they explicitly called a “worship rally” on their website. The rally featured an evangelist and a Christian rapper who preached to the kids.

The violations include a Sept. 1 school assembly featuring Christian Chapman, a preacher and evangelist, and Christian rap artist B-SHOC, who says on his YouTube channel that “324 students got saved” at the assembly.

FFRF Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert notes that the assembly was promoted and described as a “worship rally” on the public school’s website.

They’ve apparently removed the “worship rally” language from their website. In fact, they’ve removed all mention of the event. The rapper posted a video on Youtube — which I wouldn’t be surprised to see disappear soon too — making all kinds of statements about the event.

The video also shows:

• Volunteers being trained by Pastor David Sanders. He tells them, “When it’s time for them to go to their next class, they gotta go, so you need to make sure you’re very brief, what decision did you make? Have prayer with them.”

• Christian Chapman telling the students, “A relationship with Jesus is what you need more importantly than anything else.”

• Students lining up and volunteers praying with them and taking further information from the students and “[made] sure [they] were plugged into a church.”

Evidently, Principal Larry Stinson was aware of the questionable legality of holding a “worship rally” like this one during the school day, but he chose to schedule it anyway. He allegedly told Chapman that “I want these kids to know eternal life is real and I don’t care what happens to me, they’re gonna hear it today.” (at 3:58 in the B-SHOC video).

Expect a lawsuit over this one. Here’s the video:

httpv://youtu.be/lo20RwDSU7U

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Mr Ed

    The rapper posted a video on Youtube — which I wouldn’t be surprised to see disappear soon too

    There was never a rally it was school as normal, double plus good.

  • eric

    I like the FFRF, but…why isn’t the ACLU leading this?

  • DaveL

    Evidently, Principal Larry Stinson was aware of the questionable legality of holding a “worship rally” like this one during the school day, but he chose to schedule it anyway. He allegedly told Chapman that “I want these kids to know eternal life is real and I don’t care what happens to me, they’re gonna hear it today.”

    Then why did you cover your tracks?

  • dochopper

    We had the Cool long Haired Dude Roadshow for Christ Of the Pentecostal flavor (not denomination just flavor ) assembly back when I was in High School.

    The Brick and Mortar churches of all Faiths in our area Got self righteously bent out of shape about it . They joined together and made sure it didn’t happen again.

  • rjlangley

    This video has been removed by the user.

    Right on cue…

  • dukeyorkduke

    Wait — can there be a lawsuit? Who would have standing? If someone’s child didn’t convert, no harm done, and if they did convert, would there be any real damages?

    Would it be something like alienation of affection in a divorce?

  • eric

    dukeyorkduke: If someone’s child didn’t convert, no harm done

    Great argument for allowing mullahs, atheists, and satanists to host assemblies. Thank you, duke.

  • dukeyorkduke:

    No, it doesn’t require anyone to convert. Anyone who goes to the school would have standing to sue and FFRF says they’ve based this on complaints from people at the school, so they likely have a plaintiff.

  • brianwestley

    I like the FFRF, but…why isn’t the ACLU leading this?

    I wrote to the ACLU after seeing this on pharl…pharly… PZ’s blog. I was apparently the first to contact them, and they are also looking into it. Apparently, the superintendent talked to the school’s principal about this in the last day or two, which could explain why the references and links to the rally were removed.

  • dukeyorkduke

    Oh, the difference between this and the Faith-Based Initiatives is that the students were forced to sit through it?

  • eric

    Brian, thanks for that update.

    Apparently, the superintendent talked to the school’s principal about this in the last day or two, which could explain why the references and links to the rally were removed.

    Mixed feelings about this. Its good the school is responding to direction to fix the problem. But it means the perpetrators are more likely to get away with nothing but a wrist slap, since courts are often unwilling to compel a fix when a government body is in the process of trying to do one themselves.

  • Chaos Engineer

    Wait — can there be a lawsuit?

    Yes, and the plaintiffs have solid precedent on their side and will almost certainly win. The 1962 case that established the precedent was Engel v. Vitale:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engel_v._Vitale

    Who would have standing?

    The families of any student at the school.

    If someone’s child didn’t convert, no harm done, and if they did convert, would there be any real damages?

    Would it be something like alienation of affection in a divorce?

    Normally these aren’t suits for damages, they’re suits to force the government to start obeying the Consititution.

    If the plaintiffs ask for damages, it’ll be for students having been proselatized at against their will. (Since public school students don’t have the option of just walking out of assemblies they don’t like. Even if they were allowed to “opt-out” of this particular event, they might have felt like they were being pressured to attend.) The closest secular equivalent would be a “hostile workplace” suit.

  • tacitus

    I remain fascinated by the stark contrast between the UK and US when it comes to religion in state education.

    Here’s the home page of my sister’s local state Primary School, administered by the Church of England. This is in the blurb on the home page:

    Our school strapline encompasses all that we are about as a school- Let your light shine.. The strapline incoporates three important areas: The light of the Gospel message of Jesus; The light of individual talents and The light of learning.

    The most fascinating part is, of course, that such institutionalized religion (and this school’s overt religious mandate is not exceptional) has completely failed to sustain the Christian church’s rolls over the last 25 years. Of my sister’s three children who attended that school, two stopped attending church as soon as they were allowed (one, at least, is an atheist), and the third no longer attends church now they are in college.

    While I understand there are major differences in US society that probably means America would not be following the same trajectory of disbelief were the situation in state schools be the same as in the UK, but it does make one wonder what would have happened if there had been no separation of church and state in the US over the last 50 years. I suspect it’s likely that the thing that religious conservatives rail about so vocally is the very thing that has helped sustain their religion in this country when all around others are falling by the wayside.

  • eric

    it does make one wonder what would have happened if there had been no separation of church and state in the US over the last 50 years

    tacitus, we Americans think about this too. It appears the 1st amendment has been very succesful in keeping religion alive.

    Speaking as a non-believer, I’ll take the good with the bad. 1st amendment – totally worth it. Sure I’d like a less fervent America. But not if the mechanism is government requirement for either belief or nonbelief.

  • sinned34

    I left a message on B-Shoc’s YouTube channel asking him why he took the video down. I don’t expect the question to make it past moderation.

    The cached page of the school’s website still shows the “worship rally” text. Plus, B-Shoc’s Twitter account still has the entries “New Heights! http://t.co/AqN046Q” and “324 kids accepted Christ today at the shows!!! This has been so amazing!!! See what God can do when we get into a public school!!!!!” on Sept 1st.

    The entries at Christian Chapman’s Twitter feed on Sept 1st is just as infuriating.

    Time for us to get Tim Minchin into the schools!

  • lexaequitas

    Are these people dense? They really didn’t figure on getting any opposition to having preachers come in?

    Even the rapper knew there was something problematic about coming into a public school.

  • lexaequitas

    Note that while they took a lot of the offending items down, they didn’t remove all of it — the smaller pics still show the field of crosses placed on school property.

  • eric

    The cached page of the school’s website still shows the “worship rally” text. Plus, B-Shoc’s Twitter account still has…

    Teh intertubes remembers all that it sees. The virtual world comes with a time machine practically built in. We are, what, 30-40 years deep into it, and somehow people still don’t get this.

  • MikeMa

    The video link has been removed. Oh well.

  • Akira MacKenzie

    Oh, the difference between this and the Faith-Based Initiatives is that the students were forced to sit through it?

    Did you have point? If so, make it.

    There is no difference between this rally and Faith-Based Initiatives. Using revenues that citizens are compellec by law to pay in order to fund to for so-called charities to proslotyze is just as unconstitutional as preaching Christianity to to public school kids.

    If you were trying to point out some hypocrisy, I’m afraid you’ve failed miserably.

  • Akira MacKenzie

    At the same time, it seems that failed miserably to proofread. Sorry, folks.

  • scteacher

    I had heard about this and thought that it was an exaggeration.

    But come on, are you really surprised?

  • I think it’s funny that they removed that stuff. Do they think it just disappears? Do they think the FFRF is dumb enough not to have archived all the material for use in a legal complaint? It only makes them look like liars.

  • Chiroptera

    dukeorduke, #6: If someone’s child didn’t convert, no harm done, and if they did convert, would there be any real damages?

    Ask this same question in any issue involving church/state separation. I think the answers will come to you. Hint: the issue isn’t whether or not a person converts.

  • tacitus

    I think it’s funny that they removed that stuff. Do they think it just disappears? Do they think the FFRF is dumb enough not to have archived all the material for use in a legal complaint? It only makes them look like liars.

    Well, the principal has probably been ordered by his boss to remove all the offending material, and no doubt that included asking the rapper to remove his video.

    And doesn’t scrubbing all the material from public view at least show that the school is making an effort to rectify the situation? Clearly it’s too late to prevent a lawsuit, but what else can they do at this point except take down everything that got them into trouble in the first place? (I guess they could fire the principal, but short of that…)

  • sinned34

    I’m sure most of the people involved with this unconstitutional violation of church and state will complain about “outsiders” coming in to tell them how to run their affairs. Later that evening, those same morons will be yelling at the teevee, venting their fury that Muslims might be allowed to build a mosque in New York city.

  • dog healed my dyslexia

    Not that I expect a reply, of course, but here’s the message I left for “B-Shoc” (how ‘worldly’ can you get?) on Youtube:

    Subject: are u ashamed?

    Dude, I heard you did a school rally in SC recently where over 300 students “got saved.” So if there was nothing wrong with preaching in a public school (never mind that whole pesky little separation of church and state thing), why’d you take down the video? Ashamed of the ‘gospel’? Or afraid it might be used against you in court of law?

  • havermayer

    I’ve saved the video in question. Should I upload it to youtube?

  • havermayer

    http://www.mediafire.com/?toe1wye5b2cl36t

    For the time being, I’ve uploaded it to Media Fire.

  • Michael Heath

    dukeyorduke:

    Wait — can there be a lawsuit? Who would have standing? If someone’s child didn’t convert, no harm done, and if they did convert, would there be any real damages?

    Students have a positive right to be educated at our public education facilities. The government, that being the school are explicitly prohibited from denying those students’ educative rights to instead preach religion to their captive audience.

    The damage here is the denial of education to each and every one of those students, those students time is for education, not proselytization. They will be less educated because of this event. In addition the damage here is a government keeping its citizens captive in order to preach religion to them, a direct infringement on their religious freedom rights. The damage here is that such preaching is intended to create second class citizens of those who don’t believe what is being preached, partly motivated by a desire to increase political support for further government actions to promote certain sectarian religious beliefs on others and denying those who don’t believe their equal rights. The damage here is the government depriving parental rights to decide what religious beliefs they choose to expose their children to when those kids are minors. I bet there are others, those are merely the ones off the top of my head. Sheesh.

  • ArtK

    It’s very telling that dukeydukeduke thinks that the most harm that could come from this is someone converting.

  • havermayer

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLxGqg5U-0Y

    The Video has been reuploaded.

  • tacitus

    Looks like Stinson’s been wanting to do something like this for a while:

    Our middle school, New Heights, in Jefferson SC, was fast becoming the bottom of the list. Gangs, fights, profanity, disrespect…. and God saw fit to send us a true man of God to turn it around. Not only did he bring prayer back, he told the district from the beginnning he was going to , and if they had a problem with it, not to hire him! Now we are the best rated school in the district. Thank you Lord, for men like Larry Stinson. May you send your likeness to other schools!

    September 21, 2010

    and

    No one would believe the difference in a school when they have a principle who cares the way Larry Stinson does. He was not able to get prayer back in schools the way most people consider it to be, but every monday, anyone who wants to join, joins around the flagpole for prayer. He prays before special events, peprallys, etc. God being in our schools is not the problem, it is Him being taken out that is the problem. If all Christians would stand up for what we believe, we can take our schools back! It is funny, we take God out of government, yet we have to swear, on the Bible, to tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help us GOD when we go to court!

    September 21, 2010

    Obviously, it all depends on when and how he was doing this, but it sounds like our principal has a bit of a track record.

  • dingojack

    !It is funny, we take God out of government, yet we have to swear, on the Bible, to tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help us GOD when we go to court!

    Actually one can take an oath on anything you like (Koran, Bible, Spiderman #1 or the Kama Sutra) or you can just take an affirmation.

    The stoopid, it burnz!

    Dingo

  • Mr Ed

    It is funny, we take God out of government, yet we have to swear, on the Bible, to tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help us GOD when we go to court!”

    I’ve taken an oath of office three times and it involves raising my right hand and swearing to uphold my office, no bible, no god. Of course I live in puritan Connecticut, not the bible belt.

  • eric

    @25: I think you’re right. The answer to Ed’s rhetorical question is probably that the school took the web page stuff down based on the superintendant’s request. I guess we will have to wait for the court case to see whether they admit everything, or take a mixed strategy of denying any activity they think they were able to erase record of. (Er, bad English. Sorry about that.)

    @27: you could’ve just sent a message that repeated “Cock-a-doodle-doo!” three times. 🙂

  • Once again, the really icky part of “martyrdom”, that which includes actual suffering for your faith, is way too harsh for these Men-O-GOD (TM,(SM),(c).

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Off-topic:

    Offenders in Ala. town can choose jail or church

    Do you want to blog it now, or wait for the lawsuit?

  • fastlane

    If they had changed the web site to admit that what they did was a violation of the constitution and would not do it again, etc., I could see FFRF backing down from the lawsuit. As it stands now, it appears they are trying to pull a ‘Dover gambit’ and just hide their tracks, so I think they should continue to pursue all legal remedies.

  • Actually one can take an oath on anything you like (Koran, Bible, Spiderman #1 or the Kama Sutra)

    The first candidate who declares that, if elected, they will take their oath of office on the Kama Sutra, wins my vote.

    Hm. I wonder if Ilona Staller did?

  • John Hinkle

    …and Christian rap artist B-SHOC

    Ugh. Christian rap: one rung lower than Christian rock.

  • sinned34

    The one music Christians do well is death metal, which makes sense. A death cult like Christianity, obsessed with suffering and human sacrifice, should be very familiar with the subject matter.

  • penh

    Forget the prayer assembly! The real scandal is that B-SHOC allowed Christianity to come between himself and the Icy Hot Stuntaz! What a damn shame.

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