Mississippi Public School Teacher Caught Abusing Atheist Students

Mississippi Public School Teacher Caught Abusing Atheist Students October 13, 2015

A public school teacher in Mississippi is caught abusing and insulting his atheist students while praising students who identify as Christian.

World history teacher Rick Hammarstrom is not only a public school teacher, he is also a Baptist minister, and he has nothing but contempt for atheists, a contempt he is happy to force upon his students.

Hammerstrom teaches at Northwest Rankin High School, and has a reputation for insulting students who are atheist. He is also the pastor of Rehobeth Baptist Church.

The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center has filed a complaint with the officials and attorneys at Rankin County School District in Flowood, Mississippi expressing their alarm and outrage at Hammerstrom’s abusive conduct.

In a statement concerning the situation, the American Humanist Association (AHA) notes that Hammerstrom “frequently made disparaging remarks about atheists and promoted Christianity during class.” The letter was sent on behalf of a parent whose child attends Northwest Rankin High School. For obvious reasons, the family wishes to remain anonymous.

The letter states that, as atheists, the student and parent feel unwelcome in the district because of the teacher’s insults.

The following is an excerpt from the letter sent by the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center:

A Northwest Rankin High School parent has contacted our office to request assistance with regard to what is correctly perceived as a series of constitutional violations occurring under the authority of your school and School District. The parent reports that her daughter’s World History teacher, Mr. Rick Hammarstrom, who also serves as a pastor of Rehobeth Baptist Church (a fact which is prominently displayed on the School District’s website), has repeatedly promoted Christianity and God-belief during class time while making hostile and disparaging remarks about atheists. For instance, on October 8, 2015, Mr. Hammarstrom stood up and announced during class: “Atheists are throwing a fit because they don’t have their own day.” He continued: “They do have their own day; it’s called April Fool’s Day, because you are a fool if you don’t believe in god.” According to the student, these types of remarks are becoming more frequent and the teacher continues to express hatred towards atheists and favoritism for Christians. The parent and student are atheists and understandably feel affronted and stigmatized by the teacher’s actions. Worse, the teacher’s hurtful remarks make the student feel extremely unwelcome in her own classroom.

AHA states:

The letter demands that school officials warn the teacher to stop his behavior or he will be subject to disciplinary action, including possible termination. It also demands that all school employees receive instructions not to promote religion or disparage atheism and that the district provide a list of steps it will take to ensure that staff do not promote religion during school hours.

The fact is the Rankin County School District has a history of abusing non-Christian students and the U.S. Constitution by promoting Christianity. Currently the district is under a special federal court order to not advance religion during school hours.

Earlier this year the school district was fined for sponsoring Christian prayers at an assembly honoring high-achieving students. A U.S. Federal District Court fined the school district $7,500 after a minister opened up a districtwide honors assembly with a Christian prayer, an act that violated a 2013 court settlement that ordered the district to stop “proselytizing Christianity.”

Northwest Rankin High School (Image via Facebook)
Northwest Rankin High School (Image via Facebook)

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