STOCKTON, Calif. — A high school teacher in California is under investigation after a church-state separation group lodged a complaint that the teacher is promoting Christianity in the classroom and gives out “Bible cookies” to students.
The organization Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU), led by Barry Lynn, an attorney and licensed “minister” in the United Church of Christ, recently sent a letter to officials with the Manteca Unified School district after receiving a complaint from an unnamed complainant.
It alleges that John Alameda, a teacher at New Vision High School in Stockton and sponsor of an after-school Bible club, is using his time during the school day to witness to students about the Christian faith and to invite them to his after-school program.
“We understand that Mr. Alameda not only sponsors the club but also shares his Christian beliefs during school hours and frequently encourages his students to attend the club’s meetings,” wrote legal fellow John McGinnis on behalf of AU. “Furthermore, he offers extra credit for copying Bible verses and gives students ‘Bible Cookies’ as a reward for completing class assignments.”
He asserted that the Establishment Clause in the U.S. Constitution “prohibits Mr. Almeda from sharing his Christian beliefs with students during school hours and incorporating religious content into the curriculum for extra credit and as rewards.” McGinnis, therefore, requested that school employees be prohibited from promoting religion on campus.
While Alameda has not yet commented on the accusations, the district has advised that it is looking into the matter.
“The Manteca Unified School District is currently conducting an investigation into the complaint filed by the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State,” Superintendent Clark Burke wrote in a recent statement. “While respecting the diversity and beliefs of our community, the Manteca Unified School District is dedicated to ensure the separation of Church and State as prescribed by law.”
The incident certainly isn’t the first complaint filed against an American teacher who speaks about matters of faith to students. As previously reported, in November, the Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) and the Washington, D.C.-based Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science sent a joint letter to the president of Georgia Southern University alleging that Prof. Emerson T. McMullen (“Tom”) was unlawfully promoting religion to his students.
“McMullen appears to use at least some of his class to preach religion instead of teach history,” the letter read. “Our reports and information indicate that McMullen (1) is known for injecting religion into his classes, (2) gives extra credit to students willing to endure and describe additional proselytizing, and (3) uses his position at a public university to promote religious beliefs like creationism, while undermining legitimate sciences, like biology.”
It further asserted that the professor’s “preaching threatens the integrity of a GSU degree,” and asked that McMullen be investigated and consequently ordered to “cease and desist.”
But as previously reported, the first textbook used in the American colonies even before the nation’s founding, “The New England Primer,” was largely focused on the Scriptures, and was stated to be popular in colonial schools for at least one hundred years. It used mostly the King James Bible as reference, and spoke much about sin, salvation and proper behavior.
“In Adam’s fall, we sinned all,” it read, in teaching children the alphabet, using Adam as an example of the letter A.
In 1647, the Massachusetts Bay Colony passed “The Old Deluder Satan Act,” which required that children be taught to read so they could learn to read the Bible.
“In being one chief project of that old deluder, Satan, to keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures, … and that learning may not be buried in the graves of our forefathers in Church and Commonwealth, the Lord assisting our endeavors, it is therefore ordered by this court and the authority thereof, that every township in this jurisdiction, after the Lord hath increased them to the number of fifty householders, shall then forthwith appoint one within their town to teach all such children as shall resort to him to write and read,” it read in part.