Skip to comments.Tennessee School District Sued Over Ties to Evangelistic Crusade
Posted on 05/12/2003 8:37:48 AM PDT by Blood of Tyrants
MAYNARDVILLE, Tenn. Every year, hundreds of Union County students take a field trip for the soul. Children are excused from class, loaded onto school buses with teachers and sent to a three-day Christian revival.
"I am going to ask you a question," an evangelical leader recently yelled to a sea of students ready for their field trip. "If you are glad to be here, say amen!"
With the ardor of a pep rally, the students shouted back: "AAAA-men!"
Not everyone is so enthusiastic.
Fourteen-year-old India Tracy said she was harassed and attacked by classmates for nearly three years after she declined to attend Baptist Pastor Gary Beeler's annual crusade because of her family's pagan religion.
Her family has filed a federal lawsuit against Union County schools, claiming the crusade, prayers over the loudspeaker, a Christmas nativity play, a Bible handout and other proselytizing activities in the rural school system have become so pervasive they are a threat to safety and religious liberty.
Union County officials say the system is neutral when it comes to religious activities, pointing out that the crusade is voluntary, teachers chaperone on their own time and school buses are operated by private contractors.
"We do not endorse, promote or prohibit it," said school spokesman Wayne Goforth.
District officials say the crusade, now in its sixth year, is like any other field trip, with parental permission required to let the children attend for two hours a day over three days. On the crusade's final day this year, April 30, more than 1,300 of the school system's 3,000 students attended.
"All local boards of education have the authority to allow students to voluntarily attend these types of events," said Christy Ballard, legal counsel to the Tennessee Department of Education.
But, she added, "it is very clear in the statute that they can't harass a student or coerce them to participate ... and, of course, they can't be school-sponsored."
Charles Haynes, a senior scholar at the Freedom Forum's First Amendment Center in Arlington, Va., said school officials and Christian leaders in Union County need a "crash course on the meaning of the First Amendment -- especially the part that separates church from state."
Beeler, 63, who lives and preaches in Union County, said he has been contacted by communities around the country wanting to set up similar crusades, and sees nothing wrong with children getting time off from school to attend them.
"The principals, the teachers, the bus drivers all have told us that they have less behavior problems after this crusade than they do before. So that tells us the positive effect," he said.
India said she was called "Satan worshipper" and accused of eating babies when it was revealed she was a pagan. She said she was taunted, found slurs painted over her locker and was injured when classmates assaulted her and slammed her head into the locker.
The lawsuit said school officials took no disciplinary action. In a May 2 legal response, school officials said they acted appropriately, denied the attacks happened, or said they were unaware of them.
Paganism is an ancient religious tradition that embraces kinship with nature, positive morality and the idea that there is both a female and male side of Deity.
After Christmas break in early 2002, India said three boys chased her down a hall at Horace Maynard Middle School, grabbed her by the neck and said, "You better change your religion or we'll change it for you."
She broke free and fled into the girls' bathroom. A teacher stopped the boys from following her, the lawsuit said.
"That was pretty much the last straw because she was terrified," said India's father, Greg Tracy.
The Tracys took India out of school on Feb. 26, 2002.
A straight-A student, she belonged to the leadership-service organization Beta Club, chess club, and band. She was the only girl on the middle school football team.
Now she takes Internet courses at home and hopes to transfer to a public school in Knoxville, 25 miles away.
"When was it too hard? I don't know," India said. "On a couple of occasions it was too hard and then it got easier and then it started getting bad again and I would come home bawling my eyes out."
I am sorry you feel that way, next time you are offered time off with pay for a Christian Holiday, say, "no thanks".
As far as shutting down a school, it never happened. And I do remember there are sanctions for different religions. It just so happens that this was a "Christian" Field trip that has everyone swooning, if it were a New-age seminar, would you even care?
There's no "might" about it, you are a basket case.
Christians are at my doorstep every other day pitching their religion at me, do I feel a little persecuted, your damn right. Aaahhhhh, I'm tearin' up over here. If you start crying, I'm going to start crying. Quick suggestion, listen to Nancy & just say "no"
The fact of the matter is, I said that the SCHOOL should NOT be involved in religious activities PERIOD!!
Wrong again, the fact of the matter is that the TEACHERS are freely involved, and its not your business working through the state PERIOD!!
And the Pagan girl, SHOULD NOT be persecuted by Christians in her school for having a different faith, Don't think it happened, sorry, I know it happens, so it is NOT that far a stretch for me to believe that it happened to her. So you "know" it happen exactly like she said, emotional one? Well we know pagans do have commandments against lying so I'm sold. In that case, you're 100% right taking a bold stand against persecution, you get a second cookie.
If you want your child involved in Religious sctivities AT and DURING school, then send them to private school.What a canard. There are so many things wrong with this charge. Most importantly, tell that to the poor kids who the NEA has stopped school vouchers for.
You are the one that is whining, trying to change the subject AGAIN, I was responding to AppyPappy, NOT you.
Ah the mark of the truly desperate FR poster losing an argument. Technically it was Zavien, but you are right. If you think I'm going to let you stereotype Christians as being arrogant in your rant than you're even dumber than your poor spelling indicates.
Oh, and what about the other religions, what wold you do if the Pagans decided to have a celebration that cut into 2 hours of the day at school, used school busses, and teachers volunteered to go? You'd have a coniption fit, don't deny it, you would, you would have a fit.
LOL!! Settle down SHrillary, you're the one having another conniption fit. Enhance your calm. If the pagens had enough of a majority to voluntarily pull that off there's nothing I could whine to the state about, its still a religiously free country (except for people like you) but I would pull my kids out of that school I assure you.
Yeah, I find the Christian religion arrogant, just as I find the Muslim religion arrogant. ANY religion that states that it is FOR EVERYBODY, and persecutes those that are not believers, is arrogant in the extreme. Yeah, I have a problem with arrogance in Religion, especially when it's believers are about as fanatical as they come.
I assume you are referring to the Christian terrorists? Perhaps its the one-religion laws in Saudi? The state controlled by religion is built into Islam through Sharia, Christianity is unique how Jesus said "give unto Caesar what is Caesar" If that's your best shot as to why Christians are arrogant, linking them to Islam, you have a lamer case than I thought.
Do I believe that the Pagan was chased around and threatened by Christians, yeah, I believe it, I lived it. Although, I was not Pagan.
Again with the unnecessary defensiveness, why in the world would I care if you are a Pagan, why add that? You've obviously been exposed to some intolerant Christians (or you are just a complete psycho, a distinct possiblity) that's their bad if they wounded you, its not a part of the religion and they are wrong. But don't you dare stereotype "Christians" as being arrogant; you're the one who is clearly arrogant passing such hypocritical "judgement" upon them all.
Anything that Smacks of ANY religion, should not be DURING school hours, and SHOULD NOT be organized by the public school.
Why do you care, what is it hurting? It is because the lack of religion we have the problems we do. Religion teaches man being inherently evil, where humanist teach man is inherently good. Revivals do not cause a person to regress to an evil state, it actually progresses those to another spiritual level. That is of thier own choice, and it isn't coerced!
You need to deal with your own convictions and leave this school alone that doesn't have a problem with it!
You are absolutely correct and I was wrong. What happened was worse.
From the article.
Every year, hundreds of Union County students take a field trip for the soul. Children are excused from class, loaded onto school buses with teachers and sent to a three-day Christian revival.
So while other kids are required by law to go to school, these kids get excused absences to attend a revival.
The pagan kid ought to set up her own 3 day meeting and ask for an excused absence as well.
Bet she doesn't get it.
Meanwhile some teachers and support staff take three days off (vacation, personal days, paid holiday?) while the remainder go to work as usual.
And I do remember there are sanctions for different religions. It just so happens that this was a "Christian" Field trip that has everyone swooning, if it were a New-age seminar, would you even care?
I am not "swooning". I simply think it's not appropriate for a government school. I'd feel the same if they were trying to peddle New Age stuff, or Zoroastrianism, or Islam.
Wrong again strawman beater, the hypothetical was whether the pagans were a majority enough to have their own "revival" at the school. Not whether your dithering self attended. In that case, I wouldn't just take my kids out of the school, I'd move. Intolerant? No, I've seen the New Agers that call themselves "Pagan" and I don't trust their moral relativism around children. Its not like Jews or Muslims, there is no equivocation. I can't believe one so quick to distance themselves from Pagans would even try that slight of hand trick.
It is the schools job to give knowledge to students, it is the parents job to instill morality.
I half agree, it is up to the parent to teach knowledge and morality, the teacher reinforces it and enhances it through further studies - it is unfortunate that parents do not spend time with thier kids to do that!
The public school has NO place in the religious studies of students unless it is AFTER school hours, or at a private school.
wrong again - to most of us a christian way of life is our lifestyle and cannot be separated form our persona. Jesus created us, we need to emulate Jesus in all we do and say. Which doesn't always happen, but those of us try. School time takes up 6 to 8 hours of a childs life, most of his/her waking hours are with a teacher, 4 or less with parents...The public school system started where? The one room school house that was also the...what...CHURCH!
Churh/religion/spiritualism was never to be apart from the lives of the people. Patrick Henry and George Washington said that you can't call yourself an American if you subvert the word of God!
Again, those that fight for religion to be out of the public forum have a few issues to hide, do not take my right or the rights of others to worship where and when they want to.
In the event of this "Field Trip", it doesn't matter what you think, those that didn't want to go, didn't. Those that wanted to go, did and had a good time. There are many school sponsored events, like trips to Europe...our senior class went to the Bahamas...If you don't want your kids to go, opt-out...Mine will go if they want to, that is thier right!
As far as the young girl that feels persecuted, most girls in Middle School do, it isn't her religion that gets her persecuted. Most in that age group do not care, infact they would be inquisitive. There are other issues around the harrassment. I am really shocked to see Freepers on here lambasting on speculative evidence.
Where do you think the School got the approval? What school group sponsored the event? It is obvious that the majority of the citizens of that school district are in favor of these activities. You can keep your religion hating self in your own little part of this world and leave the rest of us alone, but you remember that this country was founded on these same religious principles! If it wasn't for religion in government, you wouldn't be free to write on this thread!
To force a person to pay for something that they disagree with is the worst type of tyranny.
Want me to quit making a fuss, then quit making me pay for it.
That was easy, wasn't it?
Answer 1: Voucher program, vote for it next time
Taxes are the worst type of Tyranny, in fact Federal Taxes are illegal according to Title Code 26, it is in favor of the citizen.
I pay those taxes , I pay for my kids to attended public school AND Private school. If there isn't a break for me to send to private schools that aren't using state funding, why should you get a break? I have my 2 oldest in High School, my 2 youngest in private. So, I pay, you pay...If it isn't in your state, leave them alone.
No, they didn't. Read the story again.
2) It's done during the school year.
Is freedom of religion only allowed when school is out for the summer break? "Earth Day" is nothing but a mother earth/Gaia worship festival invented by the pagans and foistd on our children under the guise of "responsible environmentlaism" and you seem to have forgotten about it.
3) Teachers and school staff participate.
So what? Should we have a "religion" test before the teachers are hired to ensure that only atheists are hired?
4) The event is held by a single Christian sect. The presentation includes the religious beliefs of that sect only.
Again, so what? Attendance is not required and in fact parental permission is specifically required. If the Gaia worshipping, hairy armpit crowd wants to invite the children to some goofy ceremony in the woods, and their parents let them with full knowledge of what they are going to, so what?
5) They don't close the school for other religious groups' meetings.
Read response to number 1.