Buddhist Student, Religious Liberty Prevail In Louisiana

Imagine if your child was ridiculed in front of his classmates for his religious beliefs until he was physically ill. Can’t believe it? Neither could we, and that’s why the ACLU and the ACLU of Louisiana sued the Sabine Parish School District on behalf of C.C., a sixth-grader of Thai descent and a practicing Buddhist. You remember C.C.: He was chastised by teachers and administrators at his Louisiana public school for his religious beliefs. School officials also repeatedly, and illegally, imposed their religious beliefs on students in a number of ways.

Today, C.C. and his family won. A federal district court entered an order requiring the school district to refrain from unconstitutionally promoting or denigrating religion. The court’s order also mandates in-service training for school staff regarding their obligations under the First Amendment.

When we filed the lawsuit, many people were shocked by the allegations. In addition to denigrating C.C.’s Buddhist faith by calling it “stupid,” school officials suggested he should transfer to another school with “more Asians.” They also taught creationism in science class, incorporated prayer into class and nearly every school event, hung a portrait of Jesus over the main entryway, and participated in a number of other activities that blatantly violated the separation of church and state.  

The court’s order, which took the form of a “consent decree” agreed to by the school board, ensures that these unlawful practices will be discontinued in Sabine Parish and brings the case to a close. We applaud the board for doing right by C.C., his siblings, and all district students.

Unfortunately, however, not everyone has reacted to the lawsuit with the same measured consideration as the school board. While C.C. and his family have received much support from the community (including from some local congregations) and from across the country, they also have been harassed via crank calls to their house and work. And last month, C.C.’s mother Sharon was accosted while doing yard work: Three people wearing KKK-type white hoods drove by her and shouted, “You fucking nigger Asian-loving bitch.”

These incidents further highlight why it is so important that public schools throughout Louisiana, many of which continue to flout the law in this area, rethink their approach to religious liberty.  

Had Sabine Parish proactively sought to comply with the Constitution in the first place, the Lanes would not have been forced to expose their family to such vitriol, harassment, and intimidation simply to assert their fundamental rights. We hope their experience and the consent decree will serve as important tools to educate Louisiana’s educators – public school officials – about real religious liberty. 

Real religious liberty includes not only the right to express and practice your faith in school, which the consent decree protects, but also the right to be free from the religious coercion and alienation that occurs when a teacher or other school official tries to impose his or her beliefs during class or school events. Real religious liberty means that every child, regardless of faith, should feel welcome in our public schools.

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Anonymous

Wow. A couple of commenters are saying that the ACLU is the bad guy here? Just a minute you racist red-neck wannabe Christian commenter's!!! Amazing. Stomp all over someone else's rights (and a child no less) in the name of your FALSE god and then call them the bad guy. Flippin Amazing!!
Just who appointed you the only right in the universe? The school got threats huh? No flippin wonder!! And you can't figure it out with your backwards racist red-neck wannabe FALSE Christian religion.....
I'm a happy Atheist you pussies. I don't go around making fun of or degrading other people because they believe in something, but you make me draw the line with this. You idiots!! Try standing up for what your so called religion says it stands for and you would see how stupid you sound. The ACLU isn't at fault here, it's the jackasses like you that are!

trish

Dear "right wing and proud"-

You are part of the problem, not the solution. "False religions"? Since you are a Christian, I can see how you would feel that way, but why must you insist that everyone else believe the same way? Not everyone was raised like you. Not everyone believes what you believe. To those people, their religion is a as true as yours is to you. And you know what? THAT'S OK. What this school was doing is wrong, no matter what your opinion is or how you FEEL about it...it was wrong in the eyes of the law. We do not send our children to public school to receive a religious education. That is what church, home, and parochial schools are for. What the ACLU hates or does not hate is entirely irrelevant to this case. Did they take the case because they hate Jesus? I don't know. Maybe some of them do, and maybe some of them are as devout in their Christian faith as you are, but also believe in separation of church and state. Making such broad stroke proclamations, however, makes you appear unhinged, extremist, and unreasonable. I think it's sad that the parents even had to take it that far. I think it's atrocious that this CHILD was being bullied by students and teachers, alike, and the school admins did nothing to intervene when they were informed of it. Move to a school "with more Asians"?? Seriously? It's almost as though they were TRYING to be offensive. I'm sorry that there were threats against both sides in this case. That is wrong. But what is even more wrong is that there were "sides" to begin with. It is a public school. PUBLIC. No child should have to endure humiliation and harassment, at the hands of teachers no less, because of religious differences in an institution that exists for the purpose of academic education. You want to teach creationism and Jesus and whatnot, that's fine. Become a Sunday School teacher, NOT a public school educator.

trish

One other thing...Christianity does not belong to any one race, and even if it did, I can hardly see how it could be claimed by "white men", as it originated in the Middle East and Jesus was almost certainly NOT white. :-)

Anonymous

Does anyone know the time-frame in which the school system has to comply with the judge's orders? The ruling came down on the 14th, but as of today (the 18th), they still have on their Beliefs page (http://www2.sabine.k12.la.us/district/believe04.htm) that "God exists" as the first item up. It doesn't take four days to remove one line from an html page, unless they are planning on appealing and refuse to implement the judge's orders.

Marry Me, Mindy

Count me as one who is very UNHAPPY about the outcome of this case. Not because I support the school but oppose the ACLU, but because the consequences do not go nearly far enough.

"Stop violating the law" is not a punishment for doing something wrong, it should be the default position. OF COURSE they will stop doing it. They must. However, this school and the people who were violating the constitution in the first place need to face consequences for what they did. As has been noted, there is no ambiguity in this case. It is among the most vagrant violations of the establishment clause as you will find. It's obvious to anyone who has paid any attention to the court that this is completely unacceptable.

Hence, the fact that the school was doing it indicates that either 1) they are completely clueless, or 2) the deliberately violated the constitution. Either way, they have to be held responsible. I have proposed that the entire school staff needs to be replaced. Not "trained" but replaced, because the degree of violation indicates incompetence (school officials need to know that they are beholden to the law of the land, and there is no excuse for being ignorant of it).

Second, I am not satisfied with the school having to pay for the student to attend a different school. It is THEIR responsibility to provide all students, including those with different religious beliefs, a safe learning environment. If there are threats against the student, it is the violators that need to be sent away, not the victim.

I am glad that the ACLU took on this case, but I am very disappointed in how weak the result is. If someone was convicted of theft, telling them it is wrong and to not do it again is not sufficient. Shoot, restitution is not even sufficient - you have to pay back more than what you stole or there is no disincentive for doing it, because unless you get caught, you get away with it, and even if you do get caught, all you lose what you had no right to have in the first place.

And that is what happened here. The school wasn't punished. All they have lost is the ability to promote religion, but they never had a right to do that in the first place. So they have actually lost nothing. All that happens is that they now have to follow the law.

Basically, they got away with it. Yes, it is good that they won't get away with it anymore (we hope), but that doesn't change the fact that this school has blatantly violated the law for years and years with no consequence. It's sad.

Paul from Chicago

This makes me proud to be a long-time member of the ACLU. Centuries ago the Puritans left their home to come here because of religious persecution. Their decedents who helped found the government of this country felt so strongly about religious discrimination that they made the amendment against it the first one. Good to know some people haven't forgotten that.

Anonymous

Firstly, must you push, or a better word is "demand" a donation before one is able to even read an article. Either a misunderstanding or a sad commentary in my personal view.
John Michael McCarthy

Anonymous

Victory? Hardly. I would not call this a major win for the ACLU. Basically all you accomplished was having the painting and posters removed, a few training sessions for teachers, and $4000 to the gold diggers who started this all. $4000? Big whoop. That's not even a Six Flags vacation. With all the blogs on here threatening the school, staff, and parish, I was expecting it to be a big time settlement. The lack of such only reiterates my belief that the majority of the allegations in this case were pure BS.

I do not believe religion should be taught in schools. I'm not even a very religious person. I believe people have a right to believe in whatever they want, but this includes Christians. I never understand how you people argue your point against bigotry and discrimination by doing the very thing you are accusing the defendants of. Anyone who off

Anonymous

Victory? Hardly. I wouldn't exactly call this a big win for the ACLU. Basically all you accomplished was having the painting and posters removed, some training sessions for teachers, and $4000 to the gold diggers who started this whole thing. $4000? Big whoop. That's not even a Six Flags vacation. With all the threats being made by bloggers on here, I was expecting a large sum settlement. The lack of such only reiterates my belief that the majority of these allegations were false.
I do not believe religion should be taught in public schools. I'm not even a very religious person. I believe everyone has a right to believe whatever they want, but this includes Christians. I can never grasp why so many of you argue your points about bigotry and discrimination by doing the very things you accuse the defendants of. Anyone who offers up an opinion or belief system that differs from yours is immediately attacked, cursed out, or called ignorant. So how can you call yourselves tolerant?
I feel like the Lane family could have achieved this same measley outcome by taking a different path in correcting the problem. They chose to do so in a manner that brought extreme, violent, and frightening threats to be made against this small community school from people all over the United States. They chose to do so in a manner that brought nothing but negativity on the reputation of this school and community - to everyone there instead of just the parties involved. Now you actually want sympathy for them because they are receiving the same treatment. Come on. If these people thought once the case was settled this same community would host a banquet and present them with a "I Made a Stand" plaque, then they are either living in lala land or know nothing about the inner workings of life in a small town. This isn't a cheesy Lifetime movie- this is the real world. They will never be accepted in this community. Ever. And not because they have Buddhist beliefs, but because they endangered the lives of people's kids. That is what people are most upset about. The malicious threats posted on these blogs which are so vile I won't even repeat. The threats which have in turn caused this school to have policemen on campus patrolling for anything suspicious. And each day when parents go to school to drop their children off, they will see that patrol car and be reminded of all this hoopla the Lane's have stirred up for a puny $4000 payout.
People will be cordial to them, but in the long run , no one will want their names associated with the Lane's and no one will allow their children to have sleepovers or play dates with their children. You may not like what I'm saying, but I am just being honest.
So while your claim of victoy is a little blurry, the losers in all this are crystal clear...the Lane children. And since I believe all children are innocent, this makes me sad. Sad because it could have been avoided if things were handled differently. Hope this family hangs on to their 4 grand. They are going to need it for therapy.

another Josey

I teach in a community college and taught in a school district where the LDS church has much influence, my job at the college was recently threatened because a student, a high school student, did not wish to participate in the class because she felt that it was wrong to show nudes or speak the words in formal language for body parts, she told her parent and then the dean told me that a movie which was based on a 1990's art show which was found in court in Ohio to Not be obscene was somehow pornography. This same group of people seems to rule the school district the school dress code was based on LDS religious dress, girls could not wear sleeveless blouses! And if you happened to be of a different religion or did not practice religion you were basically shunned, anyone who didn't buy into this was fired or their career was put in danger. The Buddhist child in the article would have been treated even more poorly in the state in which I live, anyone different is a to be shunned or pushed out. In this state high school students are now taking college courses and their parents are pushing their beliefs into the college classroom and trying to force professors to dumb down their classes to mimic the religious views of their church. Most of these students do not belong in college as they are not mature enough to be in a college course and their parents have no business pushing their ideas on the adults in the college classroom who pay for their classes and do not want their education interrupted by children who do not pay and do not wish to be there.

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