Humanist Group Sues Okla. School District for Allowing ‘Missionaries’ to Teach Students About Christianity

STILWELL, Okla. — The American Humanist Association, along with an unidentified couple and their five-year-old daughter, have filed suit against a public school district in Oklahoma for allowing Christian missionaries to teach a monthly class to pre-K through eighth grade students.

According to the lawsuit, a class simply called “missionaries” had been held once a month at Maryetta Public School with the knowledge of the Maryetta Public School District. The class was placed on the school calendar and in email announcements.

During the session, three men sang songs and played games with the children, while teaching the students about the Bible.

The plaintiff parents state that their daughter was subjected to the classes without their foreknowledge and without the ability to opt out. The parents identify as humanists and are raising their daughter accordingly.

The legal challenge states, using the names “Jane” and “Jill” as aliases, that after the mother picked the child up from school in September 2019, the girl asked on the ride home, “Mom, is God real?”

“When Jane asked Jill what it was that prompted her to ask such a question, Jill said that, ‘these people came and sang songs and told us a story about God and how he’s real,'” it outlines.

The girl later told her parents that she “didn’t want to get in trouble,” so she “pretended believe in God” at school, which made her distraught. She soon advised that she did not wish to participate in the class anymore.

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When the girl’s father addressed Superintendent Lori Means about the matter, he was reportedly advised that the class was for the purposes of “character education” but also informed that he could opt out the girl via a note to her teacher.

While the girl’s mother provided a note requesting that her child be allowed to skip the class “if she chooses,” the lawsuit states that because the volunteer teacher’s assistant was not present during the next missionaries class, the girl could not sit out participation that day.

The child thus relayed the information to her mother after being picked up from school, who in turn contacted the American Humanist Association for assistance.

The attorney for Maryetta Public Schools, Bryan Drummond, soon advised that the matter had been discussed with the district and the missionaries would no longer be allowed access to the students.

Despite the class being canceled, the American Humanist Association has now filed suit, alleging that the “Defendants acted under color of law in violating the First Amendment” and “[s]uch actions of the school district and its employees described above have harmed, and continue to cause harm to, plaintiffs.”

“Through its missionaries program, the school district has interfered in private, familial matters of faith and personal philosophy, distressing and confusing a young girl torn between the authority of her parents and her teachers,” the complaint states. “The school district has failed to honor the sincere wishes of parents who do not want their child exposed to religious proselytizing, let alone at their public school.”

The suit seeks a declaration that the practice violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, as well as nominal and punitive monetary damages to “deter similar violations in the future and to penalize Defendants for years of violating the Constitution.”

Read the lawsuit in full here.

As previously reported, in 1828, just 41 years after the signing of the Constitution, Noah Webster, known as the Father of American Scholarship and Education, wrote, “In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed. … No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.”

He also wrote in his publication “Letters to a Young Man Commencing His Education”:

“Let it then be the first study of your early years to learn in what consists real worth or dignity of character. To ascertain this important point, consider the character and attributes of the Supreme Being. As God is the only perfect being in the universe, His character, consisting of all that is good and great, must be the model of all human excellence, and His laws must of course be the only rules of conduct by which His rational creatures can reach any portion of like excellence.”

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