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Southern Mississippi public school holds Christian-themed assemblies

This kid is brave and he deserves about a gazillion kudos.

A high school freshman from Neely, Mississippi wrote to the Hattiesburg American about some frustrations he’s had with his school assemblies that have not only taken a religious tone, but also lean toward promotion of Christianity. As he should, he sees this as a violation of separation of Church and State.

Here’s the letter:

I am a freshman at Greene County High School, and I am writing to express my concerns on several assemblies that we have had this year.

It is understood that we live in a region of the country called the “Bible Belt,” and in this region Christianity does play a significant role in the lives and the views of many people. I not only understand this, but I also respect it.

This school year we have had three assemblies where the speaker was a religious figure. The first person was a local preacher. During this assembly he preached to us on the importance of making the right choices and accepting Jesus as our savior.

The next person was a biker-turned-preacher from the Gulf Coast. His program was focused on making the right choices. He didn’t preach to us, but he did mention that turning to Christianity helped him turn his life around.

The other speaker was a preacher from Louisiana. He preached on the importance of living in a Christ-like manner.

These assemblies were all concluded in prayer. We were never given the option to not attend.

I respect all of these people and their commitment to the Christian religion just as much as I respect the Constitution and rights given to us by this document. This time, however, the two are at odds with each other.

The Establishment Clause of the Constitution has been interpreted in many court cases as a wall of separation between church and state.

Moreover, it states clearly in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 that no school official shall mandate or organize religious ceremonies.

I have no problem with the assemblies themselves, but public schools are not the place to preach a religion. The Constitution is the reason that this country hasn’t crumbled into a chaotic state.

Now is not the time to overlook this important document. These assemblies, no matter how good of a message they bear, are still technically illegal.

Wesley Crawford

Neely

Check out the comments that have been left for this letter – including those from people who refuse to believe that a letter such as this could have been penned by a high school freshman.

This kid is VERY brave for what he did. That is a very difficult subject to tackle, particularly in southern Mississippi, and he was very much in the right to point out the err of the school’s ways.

It is upsetting that any taxpayer-funded school would organize an assembly, required or not, that would steer children toward any religious faith. It is not the public school’s place to tell people to be more “Christ-like.”

To Wesley: Keep fighting. You did the right thing.

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  • Anonymous March 12, 2008, 3:07 am

    I attend the same school as Wesley. I can see where this would be a problem if we were given no option about going, but this is not the case! Nobody is forced to go, its by our own free will.

    Reply
  • Bellesouth March 12, 2008, 3:48 am

    Hi there. Thanks for reading.

    Actually, what you are talking about is exactly what the U.S. Supreme court ruled was still unconstitutional.

    These are the only things that students are allowed to do, according to the U.S. Constitution:

    -Take Bibles or other religious texts with them on the school bus.
    bullet
    -Pray alone or in groups at the flagpole or elsewhere on school grounds.
    -Pray in classrooms outside of regular teaching hours.
    -Say grace and/or pray in a school cafeteria.
    -Form a Bible study club or any other religious club, if even one student-led group is already allowed in the school. This is a guaranteed right under the federal Equal Access Act of 1984.
    -Students can wear T-shirts with religious text. They can wear religious jewelry (buttons, symbols, crosses, stars of David, pentacles, etc).
    -Students can hand out religious materials.

    Assemblies held during school hours – whether or not students have the option of going – are NOT allowed.

    For more information, look here.

    Thank you again for reading; that does mean a lot to me.

    Reply

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