A North Carolina public school has just been criticized for allowing church-funded Bible classes to be taught to its elementary school students.
Last week, The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter to the Rowan-Salisbury School District informing them that three of the district’s schools–Cleveland, Woodleaf, and Mount Ulla Elementary–had made a “serious constitutional violation.”
The 45-minute classes were held weekly at the schools, and were targeted toward “the District’s youngest, most impressionable students.” In the letter, FFRF wrote:
“These classes are flagrantly unconstitutional.” (source)
FFRF reported that the instructors of the class were presenting the story about how the earth was made in seven days as “literal fact.” Students were also told that the universe was made with a plan and that scientific breakthroughs could be predicted with the Bible.
Pastor Doug Hefner of Salem Lutheran said that his church had helped sponsor the three teachers for the Bible classes. He said:
“I think this program dates back to the 60s as a matter of fact. I’ve only heard great things, and how it’s been a great program and helped the children and the young people learn about history.
The youth, the young people, based on what their parents want to do, can opt out of that as well, and there’s something else for them at that point.” (source)
FFRF fired back at Hefner’s remarks, stating that it was “irrelevant that parents may excuse students from the elementary bible classes.”
FFRF staff attorney Patrick Elliot wrote:
“Suggesting that children who do not wish to be subjected to religious activity at their school be segregated from their classmates is reprehensible. It shames students into either outing themselves as different or showing deference to a religion they do no believe in and to which their parents to not want them subjected. (source)
“It is appalling that the District would take away from instructional time to indoctrinate children in Christian dogma.” (source)
Not everyone agrees with FFRF’s stance on the classes. Some parents of Rowan County, like Tanya Biggus, are very much in favor of the classes. Biggus said:
“Especially with the recent violence in schools, I feel like it would be a good thing.” (source)
District superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody has advised that the school board came together with school system attorneys to discuss the letter from FFRF, but did not say what the outcome of the meeting was.