Scott and Sharon Lane and their five kids, who filed their complaint against Sabine Parish School District in U.S. District Court on Wednesday, are being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The lawsuit alleges that a science teacher spoke openly about her faith and reportedly said that people who do not believe in God are “stupid,” The Christian Post reported.
According to the Lane family, one of their kids — a Buddhist of Thai descent known in the complaint as “C.C.” — enrolled in Negreet High School this year as a 6th grader (the school serves kindergarten through 12th grade). He was reportedly mistreated by at least one teacher because of his non-Christian beliefs.
The lawsuit names the school board, Superintendent Sara Ebarb, Negreet High School Principal Gene Wright and the aforementioned science teacher Rita Roark.
Roark’s purported behavior and statements in class are the first point of contention in the complaint.
The family claims that, in addition to proclaiming that people are unintelligent if they do not believe in God, the teacher reportedly told students that world was created 6,000 years ago, that the Bible is true and that evolution is an impossibility, according to the Post.
The complaint also alleges that she called the student’s Buddhism stupid during a lesson on the subject.
The family also claims that the Sabine Parish School District routinely spreads the Christian faith by allowing class prayer and invocations at school events. Bible verses are apparently shown on the high school’s marquee and a picture of Jesus is said to be hung above a doorway.
“Public schools should be welcoming places for students of all backgrounds,” Marjorie Esman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, told The Associated Press. “No child should be harassed and made to feel like an outsider in his own classroom, and students should not have to endure school officials constantly imposing their religious beliefs on them while they are trying to learn.”
The American Civil Liberties Union is also asking for the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the district, claiming that school officials, following the Lane family’s complaints, defended the incorporation of Christian themes into the public school system.
Ebarb reportedly told the family that “this is the Bible belt” and suggested the student transfer to another school or change his faith, according to information published about the case by the American Civil Liberties Union. C.C. was indeed transferred to another school, though the Lane family claims he also experienced religious discrimination at the new institution.
The boy’s stepfather, Scott Lane, wrote an article that was published on the American Civil Liberties Union’s website in which these allegations were mapped out in detail.
“We don’t begrudge others their right to their Christian faith. But that’s why the separation of church and state is so important: It gives us all the breathing room and freedom to believe what we want to believe and to practice those beliefs without undue influence or interference by the government,” he wrote. “Forcing your beliefs on another is not freedom; it is oppression.”