A Louisiana teacher who taught her sixth grade class that evolution is “impossible” and that the bible is “100 percent true” ridiculed a Buddhist student during class and announced that those who don’t believe in god are “stupid,” according to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana.
When the child’s parents reported the incidents, the Sabine Parish superintendent allegedly told them “this is the Bible Belt,” and asked whether the child, referred to as “C.C.” could either change his faith or transfer to a school where “there are more Asians.”
According to the ACLU, the teacher, Rita Rourke, works at a school in Sabine Parish, La., that consistently touts Christian beliefs through portraits of Jesus Christ in the halls, a “lighted, electronic marquee” outside the school that scrolls Bible verses, and regular staff member recitation of prayers with students during class. “The day after meeting with the Lanes, the Superintendent sent a letter to Negreet Principal Gene Wright stating that she approved of Negreet’s official religious practices. Wright read the letter to the entire Negreet student body over the school’s public-address system,” according to the complaint.
C.C.’s parents did transfer him to another school to curb his daily physical nausea and anxiety, even though it is a 30-minute drive from their home. But the school is in the same district, and also promotes religious beliefs. The District posts a belief statement on its website that says, “We believe that: God exists.” And C.C.’s new school begins student assemblies and events with prayer. The ACLU lawsuit alleges that the school and the district are improperly coercing religious practices by students and endorsing beliefs in violation of the First Amendment.
C.C.’s original teacher, Rourke, has also continued to promote religious beliefs, giving students extra credit points for including a bible verse or the phrase, “Isn’t it amazing what the Lord has made,” at the bottom of exams. She told her class that Buddhism is “stupid” and, “no one can stay alive that long without eating.” And she told her students that “if evolution was real, it would still be happening: Apes would be turning into humans today.”