Families sue West Virginia school district for Christian assembly : NPR

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A gaggle of oldsters and college students are suing a West Virginia faculty district for permitting an evangelical preacher to carry a non secular revival meeting in the course of the faculty day earlier this month that some college students had been required to attend.

The go well with, filed in a U.S. District Court docket in West Virginia on Thursday on behalf of households by the Freedom From Faith Basis, says the Cabell County faculty system within the southwestern a part of the state has a scientific historical past of disregarding the non secular freedom of its college students and instituting Christian non secular practices.

“For years, faculty system workers have violated the constitutional rights of scholars by selling and advancing the Christian faith, in addition to by coercing college students into taking part in Christian non secular exercise,” the go well with reads. The Freedom From Faith Basis is a nonprofit that promotes the separation of church and state.

The go well with follows a walkout at Huntington Excessive College final week the place greater than 100 college students left their lecture rooms chanting, “Separate the church and state,” and, “My religion, my selection.”

Huntington Excessive College senior Max Nibert holds indicators he plans to make use of throughout a pupil walkout on the faculty in Huntington, W.Va., on Feb. 9. Now, households are suing the college district, alleging it violated college students’ non secular freedoms.

Leah M. Willingham/AP


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Leah M. Willingham/AP


Huntington Excessive College senior Max Nibert holds indicators he plans to make use of throughout a pupil walkout on the faculty in Huntington, W.Va., on Feb. 9. Now, households are suing the college district, alleging it violated college students’ non secular freedoms.

Leah M. Willingham/AP

What occurred on the meeting

The Related Press left a voicemail with Cabell County Faculties spokesperson Jedd Flowers requesting remark Thursday afternoon. Throughout an interview with The Related Press earlier this month, Flowers mentioned the meeting was alleged to be voluntary, however two academics introduced their whole lessons to the meeting. Flowers known as it an sincere mistake by the academics.

“It is unlucky that it occurred,” Flowers mentioned. “We do not imagine it is going to ever occur once more.”

In an announcement on Friday, Cabell County Faculties Superintendent Ryan Saxe mentioned the district is investigating the revival occasion and that he believes some college students’ rights have been violated. Saxe is called within the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says that on Feb. 2, two Huntington Excessive College academics escorted their whole homeroom lessons to an meeting hosted by evangelical preacher Nik Walker, who had been main revivals within the Huntington space in current weeks.

College students, together with a Jewish pupil who requested to depart however was not permitted to take action, had been instructed to shut their eyes and lift their arms in prayer, in keeping with the lawsuit. The kids had been requested to offer their lives over to Jesus to search out function and salvation. College students mentioned they had been informed that those that didn’t observe the Bible would go to “face everlasting torment.”

The mom of the Jewish pupil who was compelled to attend the meeting is among the many go well with’s plaintiffs, together with the Huntington Excessive pupil who organized final week’s walkout.

Throughout the assemblies, college students and their households had been inspired to affix night providers at a close-by church, the place they might be baptized.

Nik Walker Ministries additionally visited one other district faculty, Huntington East Center College, on Feb. 1 and held an analogous meeting.

The college had a historical past of complaints towards it

Saxe mentioned final week that the district honors college students’ rights to precise their views and respects their proper to spiritual expression however that “forcing non secular expression on these with differing beliefs just isn’t acceptable and isn’t in alignment with district, state, or federal coverage and won’t be tolerated by my administration or the Board of Schooling.”

Freedom From Faith Basis legal professionals say that non secular providers — voluntary or not — shouldn’t be allowed throughout faculty hours. The muse alleges it has written a number of authorized grievance letters over the course of years which have been ignored by the college district.

In 2017, the inspiration alerted Cabell County Faculties about two separate non secular assemblies that had been held in the course of the faculty day at Huntington Excessive College, in keeping with the lawsuit.

In 2019, the inspiration mentioned it wrote to the district relating to considerations that adults had created and had been operating non secular golf equipment inside Cabell County Faculties.

Plaintiffs are looking for a everlasting injunction barring the district from sponsoring any non secular worship providers, adult-led non secular actions in the course of the faculty day or taking part in such occasions with college students in the course of the faculty day. They’re additionally looking for damages of $1 per plaintiff, plus prices and attorneys’ charges.