What happens when a teacher preaches in the classroom, saying the Bible is the basis for the Constitution and evolution is evil?
Well, if you’re smart, you let the Freedom From Religion Foundation know about it. That’s exactly what one family did. Their child attends Wynnewood Middle School in Oklahoma and the Social Studies teacher, Betty Carter, was stepping far outside the bounds of what’s appropriate to say in the classroom.
Here’s FFRF’s Andrew Seidel (PDF), in a letter to the district’s superintendent, Raymond Cole:
We understand that [Carter] does not discuss Christianity in an objective manner as required by the law. We understand that she repeated egregious falsehoods to students, including that the U.S. Constitution was taken directly from the bible — that this is coming from a social studies teacher is all the more alarming. We understand that Carter also attacks evolution in her classroom.
Andrew noted that Carter’s husband (who is also the middle school’s principal) took down posters from her classroom that had Bible verses on them, which is good, but it’s hardly a serious reprimand.
So did the letter work?
Superintendent Cole wrote back to Andrew on Monday… and it may be the most appalling email I’ve ever seen a Superintendent write.
At first, he claims the situation has been taken care of: Conversations took place between the parent in question and both the teacher and the principal. The matter was settled, he said. He pointed out that the posters were brought in by students (which he admits isn’t an excuse) and the textbook referred to “religious principles” (though the teacher should not have taught it that way).
That probably would’ve been enough right there… but then he continued:
A couple of questions I would ask you is;
If you believe in evolution, why did we stop evolving? I mean, people are generally larger today than 2000 years or millions of years ago, but we haven’t lost a toe or little finger, etc.
What happens when you die, if you”re wrong? If I’m wrong, when I die I just die, but if you’re wrong, when you die….
I have a degree in science and I’ll admit some things were very confusing, or hard to understand, but in the end my faith in God forms my belief. I have seen God work in my life and I truly feel his presence. There have been many times in my life where I have fallen short but I know in my heart that God loves me and forgives my short comings, or sins.
I dont want to jump to any conclusions, perhaps you and many of your group are Christians and are just trying to keep Church and State separate. I would submit that the single greatest reason for the violence in our schools today is this so called separation, and that the further we separate God from our schools the nearer we bring violence and evil.
… the hell?
Evolution “stopped” and Pascal’s Wager? Those are on, like, the lowest rungs of bad Christian arguments. And it just digs the district further into a hole! After a teacher has been accused of proselytizing in the classroom, you shouldn’t respond with: She didn’t do it… but would she really have been wrong if she did?
Andrew couldn’t believe it either. So he wrote back and his response was just fantastic:
… I can assure you that this matter has not “been dealt with to the satisfaction of all concerned parties.”
… the second half of your letter exhibits little remorse for Carter’s attitude; in fact, it shows a certain approval for her unconstitutional actions…
Please understand that my personal beliefs have no bearing on the illegality of the Carters’ actions. But since you asked, I believe in the First Amendment. I believe in protecting minorities from the tyranny of the majority. I believe that religion is the single most divisive force on this planet and that it has no place in our public schools. I believe that ideas should be subjected to reason, debate, and inquiry, not blindly accepted…
I believe in selflessness and in fighting for causes bigger than oneself. I believe that every America, no matter what their beliefs, should strive to uphold and enforce the First Amendment. I believe in love, in family, and in making the most of this life because it’s the only one we have. In short, I am an atheist.
I renew my request that you inform the Carters and all district employees to refrain from promoting religion in the public school. Please inform them that they have a duty as employees to keep religion in the private sphere, where it belongs, and not a First Amendment right to impose it on vulnerable school children…
It’s one thing for teachers to promote their faith in the classroom.
It’s another — far worse — when the leader of the district feels no urgency to put a stop to it because he buys into the nonsense, too.
Incidentally, the district’s mascot is the “Savage”:
Makes sense in a place where religion reigns supreme.
***Update***: Andrew’s email may have done the trick. Superintendent Cole just wrote back to FFRF:
I assure you I will continue to monitor this situation. I do not encourage teachers to promote any religion in their classrooms nor do we have any student lead prayer at any of our functions.
I agree with your assertion that morality does not require religion.
Again, I do believe that Mrs. Carter understands this issue and I believe this will not happen again. As I said, I will continue to monitor this situation.
Furthermore, he sent this email to all of his principals:
Please have a teachers meeting ASAP, no later than Friday morning. At this meeting reiterate to the teachers that they are not to promote any religion in their classrooms.
Excellent. That’s what should’ve happened in the first place. Better late than never, though.