Religious freedom is being killed in Mississippi. It has been for a few years now. And Christian fundamentalism is the murderer.
Mississippi is ground zero for religious anti-abortion fanatics. They’ve literally nearly outlawed abortion in the state in an effort to strip women of their reproductive rights. Mississippi is also the state where Republicans passed a law forcing public schools to give students an open forum to push their religious views onto others, something that mostly favors Christian students. And now, Mississippi is home to a school that has attacked religious liberty in the worst way.
Northwest Rankin High School in Flowood, Mississippi is under fire for allegedly forcing its students to attend and listen to Christian lectures during three assemblies held in April alone. Worse yet, students were barred from leaving and teachers blocked the exits to prevent any of them from doing so. One student was able to film one of the assemblies. As a result, a lawsuit has been filed on behalf of the students by the American Humanist Association. The organization filed the suit on Wednesday.
According to Raw Story,
“The assemblies showed a video laced with Christian messages about overcoming personal hardships through Jesus Christ and were allegedly led by local church officials.”
These church officials spoke about Jesus Christ dying “for our sins” and that the only way “to atone” for those sins is to accept Jesus. In other words, Christian officials were trying to indoctrinate students into the Christian religion whether they liked it or not.
Under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, such assemblies are unconstitutional because they violate the religious freedom of those who do not want to be in attendance. And since the school forced all of the students to be there and physically blocked them from leaving, these students were held against their will. That action is known as unlawful restraint and it is a felony. So this high school basically committed a crime in the effort to convert non-Christians to Christianity.
Whenever the Christian Right claims that religious freedom is under attack by the government, that’s simply a way to hide the fact that they themselves are attacking religious freedom. What is happening in Mississippi isn’t new. Similar instances are occurring in states around the country, where religious zealots have positioned themselves within state governments in an effort to shape the states with their sick and twisted version of Christianity. To date, North Dakota, Arkansas, Kansas, Virginia, Florida, Nebraska, Indiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana have all passed or seriously considered laws written based on an extreme religious view. These bills and laws are specifically designed to target reproductive rights, science, history, and other religions in an effort to declare America a Christian nation, even though the Constitution forbids laws that place one religion over another. But that is exactly what all these bills attempt to do. By introducing and passing such measures, states are favoring a specific yet misguided Christian viewpoint despite the fact that not every citizen is a Christian. Some practice Islam, some practice Judaism, some practice Buddhism, and some are even agnostics and atheists. And not even all Christians have the same views. But nevertheless, Republicans are endorsing one specific religious view, and that view is extreme fundamentalism, and extreme fundamentalism in any religion is dangerous. And when you have to stoop to the low level of holding kids captive in an effort to convert them, your religion is a bad one.