A Baptist pastor and an evangelical Christian high school principal are fighting the ACLU and students over a pattern of intense Christian indoctrination at Airline High School, a public school in Bossier Parish, Louisiana.
According to Slate, Pastor Mike Welch of Bistineau Baptist Church and Airline principal Jason Rowland are angrily retrenching after the ACLU served them notice on Sep. 24, ordering the school to stop aggressively proselytizing students.
At Airline High, students are regularly force-fed Christian ideology. They’re taught Creationism as science and in health classes, teachers drill students in Bible verses. Girls’ gym classes warn against the evils of contraception and a Christian speaker and self-proclaimed “born-again Virgin” was brought in from the local “crisis pregnancy center” to lecture female students about the dangers of sex out of wedlock.
Students and their families have complained that wall-to-wall Christian dogma should not be the cost they pay for receiving a public education. The ACLU sent a letter to the Bossier Parish school board warning that the school’s religious indoctrination plan is in conflict with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which forbids the establishment of an official religion by government officials.
The letter said, in part:
It has been brought to the attention of the ACLU Foundation of Louisiana that Airline High School in Bossier Parish (“Airline”) has engaged in a pattern of religious proselytization by establishing “prayer boxes” with Christian symbols throughout the school and by religious messages in newsletters posted on the school’s website. A photograph of the “prayer boxes” and a copy of one such religious message are attached to this letter. We also understand that the Principal of Airline, Jason Rowland, has encouraged students to “pray to the Almighty God”
This letter is to inform you that these practices violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and comparable provisions of the Louisiana Constitution, and they must stop immediately.
Rowland and Pastor Welch responded by digging in even further. Yard signs have sprouted up around town declaring Rowland a “Prayer Warrior.” Welch shot an angry YouTube video in front of the school declaring “Christians, we’ve taken enough stuff lying down.”
“I refuse,” he said, “I flat refuse, in America, to be forced into hiding as a Christian!”
The school board has sided with Rowland and Welch, saying, “(O)ur history and tradition respect the freedom of religion not the freedom from religion.”
An anti-ACLU prayer rally convened on the front lawn of Airline High a week after the ACLU sent its letter. In attendance was Republican candidate for governor Sen. David Vitter, who griped to reporters about “the left who wants to push religion out of the public square.”
Current Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) called the warning letter from the ACLU part of the “war on Christianity.”
Rowland insists to critics that no student has ever complained to him about getting carpet bombed by Christianity from freshman year to graduation.
On Fox and Friends, the principal said, “I’ve never had a complaint from a student of ours who was offended by the fact we saluted a message or even said to them God bless you.”
“Maybe the reason that Rowland has never had a complaint about his promotion of religion is not because people aren’t offended. It’s because they’re afraid,” wrote Slate’s Zack Kopplin.
Meanwhile, Rowland remains defiant, saying that he has no intention of complying with the ACLU order.
“We are not changing anything we do because of detractors,” he wrote in an email to Kopplin.