A West Virginia mother says her daughter was bullied because she declined to attend Bible-study classes given in her public school, NBC News is reporting.
Back in 2014, the Mercer County Public Schools began teaching Bible classes in the district’s elementary schools (and possibly its other schools; as of this writing the extend of the class remains unclear.) The classes were to be taught by a local pastor.
Mom Elizabeth Deal, who was raised culturally Christian but now considers herself agnostic, didn’t think it was right that a local pastor would be allowed to teach the Bible in a public school. She declined to sign the permission slip for her daughter, Jessica Roe, to attend.
The bullying started almost immediately, first from the adults. Rather than being given an alternative assignment in another classroom, Deal says that Jessica and another child who opted out were instead placed in a coat closet and given iPads “to amuse themselves” during the half-hour class. In later classes, she was sent off to the library or to the computer lab, to sit by herself, with no alternative education given. Jessica brought books.
By the time Jessica was in third grade, other students began bullying her, says Deal.
“The kids started telling her that she and her family were all going to hell. One girl saw the Harry Potter book that Jessica was reading and slammed it down on her desk. ‘You don’t need to be reading this witch magic stuff, you should be reading The Bible,’ she yelled.”
In 2016, Deal enrolled Jessica in another school. Then in 2017, she contacted the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), and sued to have the Bible classes stopped.
FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said in a statement that this is as clear a violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which says that the government cannot promote religion, as she’s ever seen. She also added that this type of thing, while unconstitutional, is also damaging to students in public schools.
“The Supreme Court has spoken directly on this type of public school indoctrination and has ruled that public schools may not engage in it. Religion in schools builds walls between children and leads to ostracism of minorities — as experienced by our plaintiff Elizabeth Deal, who had to remove her child from the school.”
Last week, a federal court agreed, and the Bible study program, which had been on hiatus, is now cancelled for good.
However, Mercer County Schools has instead offered up a Bible-based program as an elective to high school students. The authors of the curriculum, entitled The Bible and Its Influence, say that the program is “the only First-Amendment-safe textbook that supports academic study of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.”