The idea of religious freedom in America began taking a decidedly tyrannical turn when Republican demigod Ronald Reagan awarded governing authority to the religious right. No longer does religious freedom, religious liberty, or free exercise of religion mean that government cannot impose a religion on Americans, or is prohibited from demanding that all Americans comply with one “special” religion’s edicts. Over the past four years, religious freedom was transformed by evangelical Republicans and the Vatican-5 on the Supreme Court to mean that evangelical employers have Constitutional authority to control women’s reproductive health, sectarian prayers convene and end government meetings, a single-celled zygote’s constitutional freedoms supersede the mother’s, and evangelicals can threaten, harass, and abuse women seeking medical care. As horrid as the neo-American religious freedoms may be, they have primarily affected adults, but now it appears that is changing rapidly and no American is safe.
One of the hallmarks of neo-American Christianity is crying “religious persecution” each and every time an American fails to comply with evangelical edicts, or when the U.S. Constitution prevents the religious right from imposing it bastardized biblical-dogmata on the public. In February of this year, a seven-year-old 2nd grade student in Indiana was “banished” from having any contact with other students because his teacher, a playground supervisor, and a school administrator concluded that the child’s “bad ideas” persecuted (offended) another student. The ‘bad ideas‘ that persecuted ‘church-going‘ students was the 7-year-old boy replying to a question regarding “what church he attended.” Because the boy answered honestly, another child was persecuted, feigned being hurt, started crying, and resulted in the boy being ostracized, humiliated, and banished from any contact with his classmates for saying he did not believe in god or attend church.
Such an abomination to evangelicals was just too much for a playground supervisor who reported the religious persecution to the boy’s teacher identified as Ms. Meyer who demanded to know if the boy went to church, whether his family went to church, and whether his mother knew how he felt about god. Naturally, the boy asked what he had done wrong and after further humiliating the young boy for not “worshiping like her,” Ms. Meyer forced the child to sit by himself at lunch for three days and banished him from talking to other students because his “bad ideas” offended them. The boy’s teacher told him she was calling his mother to report his “bad ideas.” The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of the child for being punished and ostracized by school employees for exercising his religious freedom of not going to church or believing in god, and exercising his right of free speech.
The lawsuit stated that the boy’s teacher was not the end of the evangelical punishment. The suit says, “The matter was then sent to another adult employed at Forest Park Elementary School. Upon hearing the story, the adult told the boy’s classmate that she should be ‘happy she has faith’ and ‘not listen to the boy’s bad ideas’.” Realizing that they were out of line in ostracizing and banishing the child, the boy’s cowardly teacher never called his mother who only discovered the true meaning of “evangelical religious freedom” when her son came home upset “that he was hated by all his teachers and students at the school.”
The child’s mother called the assistant principal of the school demanding that her child not be punished for expressing his religious views. The teacher was also included in the call, during which time she proudly confirmed her involvement in punishing the boy for doing something so horrible as expressing his personal opinion, not going to church, and not believing in god; another form of religious persecution in evangelical America.
According to the lawsuit, not only did being banished from contact with other students, or being ostracized by evangelical adults in clear view of other students distress the boy, “the hurt did not end there.” After being shunned by his classmates on orders from his teacher, the young boy “with the bad ideas” now feels “anxious and fearful” about ever returning to school according to the lawsuit which is why the family is suing the school district with assistance from the ACLU whose interest is the school violating the child’s constitutional rights.
It was only after the lawsuit was filed that the school district felt compelled to release a statement glossing over its constitutional violations. It stated, “It is clear that it is not the province of a public school to advance or inhibit religious beliefs or practices. Under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution, this remains the inviolate province of the individual and the church of his/her choice. The rights of any minority, no matter how small, must be protected.” The school also acquiesced and reluctantly told the child that, “apparently he could believe what he wanted.” However, they did not say he had the same rights as evangelicals to say what he believed; even in answer to a question from the persecuted evangelical classmate.
What was omitted from the school district’s statement was any kind of apology for punishing a seven-year-old second grader by banishing him from contact with other students, or even acknowledging that there is nothing untoward about not believing in god or not attending “the church of his/her choice.” It is revealing that the school district did not make its condescending statement until after the lawsuit was filed, or that there was no disciplinary action targeting the playground supervisor, teacher, or school administrator for belittling, traumatizing, or violating the second-grade boy’s constitutional rights. in fact, what the teacher, playground supervisor, and ‘other’ school employee are guilty of is religious persecution evangelical style; what they know as “free exercise of religion.”
Evangelicals, including most religious Republicans, have been on a crusade to take their bastardized Christianity into the public domain and they specifically train their young to “ram their religion down the throats” of their classmates; and teachers they suspect of non-compliance. Just last year in California’s heavily evangelical conservative Central Valley, a middle school teacher was taken to task by religious parents and school administrators for ‘persecuting‘ two students by refusing to play “worship music” during a group drawing activity. The teacher was cornered by angry parents with administrators in tow demanding to know why he “punished the Christian students, where he attended church and why he picked on Christians” by not playing Jesus worship music. Subsequently, the evangelicals won the day by pressuring the school district to ban any music that is not sanctioned by local evangelicals. For the record, the music the teacher played that “persecuted Christians” was from a collection of J.S. Bach’s liturgical works.
This incident in Indiana is not unique, and if not for the second-grader’s parents and the ACLU filing a lawsuit, like most cases of evangelicals persecuting non-compliance, no-one would be aware of an increasing incidence of evangelicals who are now targeting and persecuting small children. Evangelicals are prone to point disapproving fingers at Muslim extremists in ISIS, and although they are not yet beheading anyone for failing to toe the line and worship according to American neo-Christianity, it is a bad sign and a portent of a dangerous future when a public school banishes a second-grader for not going to church and not believing in god; what evangelicals call bad ideas that hurt their feelings.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.
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