Van Buren Superintendent Receives Letter Alleging Constitutional Violations

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Van Buren School District

VAN BUREN (KFSM) – Van Buren School District Superintendent Kerry Schneider received a letter on Monday (Sept. 8) from the Freedom From Religion Foundation alleging that constitutional violations took place at a Van Buren school on Sept. 3, officials say.

The letter states an assembly that violated constitutional rights took place at Central Elementary School at 913 N. 24th St. Students were told that the assembly was for “everyone,” and there were games and snacks, according to the letter.

When students arrived at the assembly, they were asked to respond via hand raising to various religious questions, including: if they believed in God, if they went to church and if they had never been to church, the letter states.

The assembly was run by school staff, and students were encouraged to ask other students “if they had Jesus in their hearts,” according to the letter. Students were also told if they didn’t know about Jesus that staff members could help them, the letter states.

Another issue stated in the letter is that there is a sign reading “God Loves You” in front of the school’s office.

Schneider told 5NEWS he got the letter in an email at approximately 1:35 p.m. on Monday. He said that the issue was a personnel matter, and he couldn’t comment on it.

Schneider did confirm that the alleged incident is being investigated.

“We’re gonna have to look into it,” he said.

Schneider spoke with the principal of Central Elementary School, and when the investigation is completed, he said the results would be given to the school district’s attorney, and the lawyer would then craft a response to the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

The letter requested an investigation, and it also asked that Schneider “ensure that all school staff members are aware of restrictions on religious activity imposed by the Establishment Clause.”

The letter also requested that staff members involved in the assembly be disciplined and have a notice of that discipline placed on their employment file. Finally, the organization requested that the “God Loves You” sign be removed.

“Please inform us in writing of the action you are taking to address these issues,” the letter states.

Schneider would not say if the events detailed in the letter actually took place.

165 comments

  • Steven

    I believe they over stepped their boundaries at my sons school too (Van Buren Freshman Acadamy). His first day of school he was required to fill out a paper asking about his religion and and if he believed in god or not. Which he does not but was to afraid to say so because of what his teacher and fellow students might think of him. Are any other religions allowed to do this? Are they allowed to put up signs of their own in front of the school? School is a place for learning not religion.

    • Chris

      It’s sounds to me like your son is not very passionate or confident on his “unbelief” in God if he was to afraid to put it down in paper.

      • Susanna Marie Gomez

        And why should he be? He’s a kid for pete’s sake! Let him BE a kid, we atheists don’t go around militarizing our beliefs like this. Only the Christians do it. We WILL however fight for our right not to have our children harangued and harassed as school because of it. And why are they even putting out such a form? Under who’s authority? Who told them they could? This is all nonsense. My children don’t care less what others believe as we believe they are FREE to choose whatever they want and it’s NONE OF OUR BUSINESS. So tell me, why should MY kids be put upon to discuss THEIR religious views on some form or publicly? No, it should NOT be!

  • Meredith

    Public schools are funded by taxpayers and not all of these taxpayers are Evangelical Christians. Public school children should not be exposed to situations like these. Very inappropriate!

    • Chris

      Not all taxpayers are atheist, however the schools wanna teach my Christian children about evolution. Stop playing the poor victims, it goes both ways!

      And Susanna…. Yes u atheist do shove your beliefs in our face. I just have to scroll down my newsfeed daily to see atheist posts making fun of Christians! And your right children are children and they have the right to be exposed to The Lord and to make there own choice. Why are u so scared of them being exposed to God???! Maybe they will believe and save their souls. If so that should bring you joy….not anger!

      • Paul

        Why are you equating evolution and atheists? Oh you are another religious person that doesn’t know what the word atheist actually means. Evolution is taught in schools because it is a scientific theory just like gravity is a scientific theory. You see in science, a scientific theory is the highest level you can go. It means that evolution has not one but multiple concrete forms of evidence that point towards it being the most accurate known conclusion for a hypothesis. After more than 100 years, evolution has only become more concrete. as more and more evidence points towards the truth that it provides. A scientific theory is equivalent to fact basically. I understand though how the less educated could confuse an every day theory with a scientific theory, it’s a matter of ignorance. But hey as soon as religious people gather data, submit their evidence, and write their peer reviewed papers; we will start teaching all the religions in school in the science classes. It has to be a lack of understanding of what actually goes on with science and how scientific theories are tried and tested over many many many years that makes religious people assume they have a leg in this nonexistent fight. Evolution = fact, Religion = fairytale

      • chupacabrachihuahua

        You have got to be joking. Evolution isn’t religion, it’s science. Do you also complain about the teaching of gravity in public schools? The Separation of Church and State obviously goes right over your head. Either that or you just don’t care about wiping your butt with our Constitution.

      • skinnercitycyclist

        So you do not grasp the difference between a captive audience of children in a school and scrolling down a newsfeed you choose to subscribe to. You sound home-schooled to me.

  • amanda

    God does exist and I pray someone is teaches these children about God considering the fact that there are ignorant parents out there teaching and encouraging their children that God does not exist. It will be sad the day all these lost souls are burning in hell with their parents because they believed what their parents taught them very sad. I pray for each of these misinformed children and pray that God finds a way to reach them even if it is in school!! God Bless you all!

    • Jennifer Parker

      Its wonderful that you have such beautiful faith. However, I don’t want any government sanctioning any religion to my children. Do we follow Mormon, Pentecostal? Snake Charmers? I would much rather have a direct hand in my childs religion by taking them to the church I prefer. How about Catholic vs Baptist?Which religion should our government, get behind? Its a slippery slop and the crazy Evangelicals are going to regret them pushing their crazy version of Christianity on our children.

      • Stephen Reed

        A belief that souls will burn in hell for mere unbelief is a “beautiful faith”? I shudder to contemplate what you would consider an ugly faith.

    • Chris Weiland

      You have no idea if “god” exists or not, but one thing is certain, there is no evidence of any of the thousands of gods men have worshipped. There is a great deal of evidence that men make up gods, thousands of them. You can believe all you want, but belief is all it is. By all means, show us an evidence that your “god” is more than imaginary.
      Then tell me how you would feel if they were promoting Satan in school….that is how I feel about your beliefs. By the way, considering the history of christianity, it makes more sense that Satan inspired your bible, than any gods, and there is just as much evidence of that as your “god” having anything to do with it.

      • Wizard of Woo

        I think it would be logical to conclude that if Chris doesn’t believe in god, he doesn’t believe in the satan from that same story. I’m perplexed as to how you came to that conclusion in the first place. I hear this same thing with christians a lot and I think they don’t really understand what atheism is.

      • Paul

        Many christians are ignorant and do believe atheism is satanism. We are talking about adults that still believe in fairy tales so what is expected though?

    • Susan McAndrew

      Do you want your children’s teachers for 12 years of public school to tell them the religious beliefs you taught them are wrong, and instead teach them to pray to a different god or to adopt different beliefs? Do you want teachers to use peer pressure to encourage your children to accept a religious belief different from the one you taught them?

      Me neither.

  • Paul

    The Freedom from Religion Foundation is not an organization a school wants to tangle with for sure. Hopefully the superintendent and board take this seriously or it could get ugly real fast. Christians should also take it seriously unless they want Islam, Hinduism, and other religions to be taught to their children. This country was founded on secular values and that should be remember. God was mentioned exactly zero times in the constitution and declaration of independence. The only mention of religion at all in these documents was that we had freedom to practice or not practice what ever we choose. Christians have felt they were in control for far too long and this country is now being taken back where it belongs which is free from the tyranny of those that would force their religion on others.

    • jim

      Now Paul we all have opinions here but if I may correct you on something for you and the people that agree with you yall might just listen to what your told or taught by the people that want you to believe it and not really look for your selves. I would suggest reading some of our documents it might shed some light threw the cloud of lies you were told. First the Declaration of Independence, and I quote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certian unalienable rights,” end quote. Now break it down we hold what, (truths) what do they mean, (created equal) Now listen the rest of the sentence the ” they” stands for the TRUTHS that we hold the ” their” stands for the WE and MEN in the first part of the sentence,AND the Creator stands for the one who created the MEN not the the rights. That’s kindof saying alittle something about God Paul.Now Paul we can disagree and debate that is what makes this country America. because I might feel one way you might feel another but what your saying is wrong. In this statement haven’t read your others.And I might ad that Thomas Jefferson that wrote that part wrote concerning the Almighty wrote about Him in more documents then that look up The Act for establishing religious freedom, adopted in 1786. Jefferson you know the Secular Guy with the secular values give glory to the Almighty all over that DOCUMENT if you research for real and not pick and chose you’ll find the truth.

      • Paul

        Which of the 1000s of creators is it speaking of? Oh the christian one right because you happen to be christian so it has to be that one. lol

      • jim

        Paul like I said we can agree or disagree on which Creator thats America I’m simply correcting you a Creator is mentioned.Creator of Men.

      • Paul

        And a logical and intelligent person would understand context and realize the word creator was used for a reason to be an overreaching and all encompassing word not relating to any single religion. What part of secular is so difficult for people to understand?

      • jim

        Come on Paul, Any logical and intelligent secularist would not have worded that in that way or well you would think 56 logical and intelligent secularist wouldn’t for sure. I mean really overreaching and encompassing?

      • popculturecrack

        Jim you do realize the Declaration of Independence is not a formational document for the government of the United States of America, right? It has no basis on the legal standing of the United States, was proceeded by two other government before the United States was founded and is trumped by the Constitution of the United States of America, the document that actually forms our country and establishes the laws it’s organized under, which clearly establishes in Article six paragraph 2 and the Establishment clause of the First Amendment, that this is a secular nation.

        Jim you should also read the treaty of Tripoli, which clearly establishes that the United States is not a Christian nation.

        Also read Jefferson’s work and realize he was a deist, and the works of the two most influential American thinkers at the time, Thomas Young and Thomas Paine, both were clear atheists and both are more important to the revolution and the foundation of America than the declaration of independence.

        Regardless, you also ignore that the very form of government a democratic republic was based not on christian monarchies, but on earlier pagan forms of government.

      • jim

        Popculturecrack, first I would just like to point out I haven’t claimed this was a Christian nation and I have read the treaty of tripoli and researched the barbary pirates the muslim pirates that we were protected by Great Britain until we became our own nation then had to face it only come to think of it we learned a long time ago giving terrorists want they want don’t pay. sorry lost fucus. And on your statement “regardless you also ignore” comment I’m not sure what your claiming I’m ignoring. (not being rude really dont know) Now Jefferson, I have read alot of his stuff and though he is hard to understand sometimes its pretty good stuff I have only been studying american history for a few years but I am eager and I’m am objective (somewhat) more then most I think. Deist or not I’m not sold either way doesn’t really change my stance with Paul earlier they acknowledge a Creator. But listen I’m not a scholar or philosopher I like things simple So will you break down these things for me clearly if you can. How does the “article VI section 2” reference anything about religion. And at what point does the first amendment suggest it’s a secular nation. I threw my rose colored glasses away a long time ago. AND last but not least explain to me how you refer to “seperation of church and state” like that was THE terminology used in the constitution when it is in FACT used in a letter wrote to oh heck here is the letter now you and everyone else read where the Term came from.

        Gentlemen
        The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.
        Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.
        I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.
        Th Jefferson
        Jan. 1. 1802.
        That says to me the first admendment means the state cant run religion and religion cant run the state Thomas Jefferson attended church services in the capitol building come on! Now because people are affended of some one talking about God in public AHHH! no way. I hear stuff all day that offends me I teach my children what I believe I also teach them to be objective,curious, and critical AND how important it is to seek the truth.

      • chupacabrachihuahua

        Jefferson? You mean the same Thomas Jefferson who ripped out all the supernatural nonsense from the bible. Ever heard of the Jefferson Bible? A great many of our Founding Fathers were Deists, the mention of the word “creator” does not mean your christian god.

    • jim

      And if you want to talk about something that is not at all anywhere in the constitution try SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE and if you research it and where that term came from and read it in context and what it meant you might be surprised.

      • popculturecrack

        Jim, you clearly have never read the establishment clause and the free exercise clause… One establishes that the government can’t interfere with personal beliefs, the other says that religious people can’t establish a government preference for a religion or sect.

        While the term itself is used by Jefferson and other founders to explain what they intended for the first amendment, when you look at what the first amendment does, it clearly creates a separation of church and state. This is so evident that the Supreme court ruled there was a separation in the 1800s.

        Try another semantic argument that has more basis in reality next time.

    • cupcake

      The “assembly” in question was Not during school hours. It was held BEFORE school and the purpose of said event was for those of us who believe in God or want to know more about him.just as someone else said, we have the right to practice whatever religion we believe. Said “assembly” was NOT a Mandatory event but a place for believers to go and visit with each other and talk about what they have in common but at the same time, No one is excluded, if you are curious and want to come in then come in. Would this group be happier if the school had had said “assembly” and told kids that they weren’t allowed to come in because they don’t believe in God. I guess we shouldn’t let the Boy Scouts or Girls scouts recruit at the school then either..those organizations are PRO-GOD. Or what about the boys and girls club whose club creed starts with ” I believe in God and the right to worship according to my own faith and religion….” I don’t condone pushing something on someone but if they open the door, then I will welcome them in. My children attend this school. I know the “assembly” they are referring to and I truly do not believe that anyone was Forced to go to this meeting. They do not send flyers out advertising, its merely by word of mouth, From one believers mouth to another. I will pray deeply about this. I’m distraught about this. The one thing I love about this school is the fact that my children are comfortable with being who they are, it just so happens we are Christians. Why can’t we all just get along and let people feel comfortable to be who they are and congregate with their constituents.

      • Paul

        If this assembly was lead by school employees it doesn’t matter if it was before or after school, that is a clear violation of church and state. If it was purely student lead then so be it. I feel sorry for those school employees if it is found out to be lead by them. The separation of church and state is nothing to fool with.

      • Tonya

        Paul are you saying that school employees are not allowed to be Christian or go to church or have any faith what so ever? So you are saying that a Sunday school teacher can not teach in public school or anyone of any faith that attend church services are not allowed to teach in public schools? I dont think there is a law that prohibits a Christian for teaching in a public school is there?? I would like to see that law please do you have a copy of it??

      • Susan McAndrew

        Tonya. Of course school employees are free to worship how they wish on their own time. However, they cannot use government property or their authority as government employees to promote their religious beliefs, especially to children who have been taught that the teacher speaks on behalf of the school.

      • Paul

        Tonya I’m not sure where you got any of what you stated from what I wrote. Hopefully you don’t make a habit of changing people’s words around to fit your views. What I said was that a teacher can not influence public school children with their religious beliefs. That is against the law actually. What the teacher does outside the confines of the school is their business. The separation of church and state does not care if you are doing it before school, during school, or after school; if public school grounds or facilities are being used by the employees to push religion then you are breaking the law.

  • Steven

    The United States, in comparison to other countries, ranks 17th in educational performance and 24th in literacy. I think we need to be focusing more on that instead of promoting Christianity in schools. I don’t have a problem with Christianity or what they believe. I was raised in Christianity and my family believes that way, but it has no place in schools. If you want to teach Christianity to your children send them to Sunday school.

  • Lisa

    Good for VB schools. And the kids. And for the kids that don’t believe you are not being judged or put down. If you do not want to participate you don’t have to. For everybody who wants to should be allowed to. It’s time we take Our American rights back. When I went to school in Minn so many years ago we did not push one religion or another’s religion. It taught us tolerance. That’s a big problem with people nowadays. But we are suppose to have tolerance over those who oppose.

  • Brooklyn

    This assembly was before school and was voluntary…Chanel 5 report the whole truth not just what you want to stir the pot…you made it sound like it was during the school day. Anything to put down an educator but when you have a newscaster Ashley Beck gets arrested dwi a simple apology, tears, and all is forgiven. You don’t even show the police video from that ..it is a double standard…when a school shooting occurs who do we run too..we pray…it is a sad world these kids live in. So instead of God loves you it should say give up live as you want there are no consequences. Take care of number one…if it kills you oh well you had fun..what do adults know anyway? God have mercy on us!

    • Paul

      Technically if it was headed by school employees on school grounds then it violates the restrictions of separation of church and state whether it was before or after school. School employees on the public grounds of the school can in no way lead such activities. Now if it was student lead than that is a different story. “Prayer at the Pole” and other student lead organizations like the Fellowship of Christian Students (FCS) are able to get around such restrictions by making it a completely student lead activity/organization, however by having such organizations the school opens itself up to any religious or nonreligious clubs as well. There was a recent case where a school tried to prevent an atheist student organization from having their own club and the Freedom from Religion Foundation stepped in and that situation was corrected quickly. There is one thing you do not fool around with as an employee of the public school system and that is the separation of church and state. You can lose your job quick over such issues.

      • Jamie

        FCS and Prayer at the Pole have teacher/adult sponsors. There have to be adults that bear responsibility for accidents and so on, if something were to happen at any of these events. I don’t have any firsthand knowledge of this assembly, but even before or after school there would have to be some type of supervision, especially at an elementary school.

    • schlafcat

      The students who went to the assembly were bribed with snacks and games. They were not warned that there would be a religious aspect to the assembly. Instead of being a meeting of like-minded students with foreknowledge of the reason for the assembly, it was a diverse group of students wherein peer pressure was likely to come into play.

      I would be interested in finding out the numbers of hands raised for tose who believe in GOd versus those who do not believe in God. I suspect that the nonbelievers were vastly outnumbered because of peer pressure they encountered even before the assembly. The fact that the assembly was held at all is a good indication that there was little real faith in the questions and little honesty in the answers.

  • Vicky

    Children here are told oifthey want to come they can they have a choice they are not pushed topgo, this is silly.

    • Darrel Henschell

      If a religion other than your own was trying to use the government and state teachers to promote, endorse their religion and indoctrinate elementary children, perhaps then you would see the problem.

  • Darrel Henschell

    There’s a tax free church on every corner where Christians can practice and promote their religion in any way they wish, but for some that’s not enough. They want use our government state teachers to endorse, support, promote and indoctrinate elementary school children with their religion. You can’t do that, the precedent is clear, see the First Amendment.

  • Raozrback Fan

    I bet half of the comments here are from people NOT from Van Buren, or are fake names altogether, put out by the Freedom FROM religion foundation.
    Freedom FROM religion? What is your problem?
    What this selfish organization is doing is attempting to take away OUR Freedom of Religion.
    Think about the name of this minority group: From “FROM” religion! I will say it again: that group wants to take away OUR Freedom OF Religion! Stand up against them Crawford County! Don’t let them INTIMIDATE you!
    That group is not only anti-God and anti-Religious, but they are also anti-American and anti-Patriotic!
    Our forefathers have fought and some gave their lives for our FREEDOMS, including Freedom OF Religion!
    Please leave America alone!

    • Dee

      Nobody is trying to take away your freedom of religion. Your still free to read your bible, pray whenever you want, and go to church on Sunday. You can even send your kids to a Christian school if you want. So I don’t know who’s trying to take away your freedom of religion. Just don’t push it on other people or their kids.

      • Tonya

        So now Christian children are not allowed in public schools?? And you can say that our religious freedoms are not being taken away?? Our religious Freedoms no long exist because of people like you, The only religion that is forbidden is the Christian Religion, every other one is not only allowed but praised but when anything about the Christian religion comes up everyone is kill them all! Kill the Christians! None of you will be happy until every drop of Christian blood is running in the streets. The Christians rights to religious freedom are denied everyday and i dont see you screaming about that.

      • Susan McAndrew

        Tonya. You are being silly. Christians can be teachers. Christian children can attend public schools. Adults are expected to have learned these things called “self control” and “obeying the law” and “respecting other people.” Teachers cannot use their authority as school teachers to push religion on school property. They can teach Sunday school, attend church 7 days a week, teach religion to their children and whatever. But when they step onto to school grounds they have to respect the law. They cannot use their role as public employees to promote religion. They cannot, on school property, pray with students.

        Kids have more rights. They can pray. They can form groups and pray with other kids. They can read religious literature and express religious opinions. However, they cannot use the intercom to make every kid in the school pray to their god. They cannot put up banners in a way that is more priviledged than the personal expressions of other kids.

    • mason

      I know several non-christians who went to van buren schools. supporting separation of church and state is supporting freedom. the non-christian teachers i know at van-buren dont hold prayer rallys for their religion, because its illegal.

      • Lucy

        Don’t hold prayer rallies because they are illegal……..do you hear how you sound? Does it not disturb you in the least?

      • mason

        Some things are illegal for a reason. Murder, stealing, poisoning another person’s child’s mind with BS ideas.

      • Hailey

        Prayer rallys are illegal in schools because teachers are NOT allowed to influence children on religious or political beliefs. How would you feel if it were paganism being pushed?

    • Susan McAndrew

      Every child in America has the right to go to school without praying to someone else’s god.
      Every child can pray if he/she wants to, every child can bring a bible and read it during open reading times. However, the teacher and other public employees cannot lead or direct prayer or cause it to happen. Public employees cannot tell children that one religion is good, or right, or recommended, or special. The employees must remain neutral. Put yourself in other people’s shoes. Do you want to teach your beliefs to your children without government interference? Other parents want that too.

    • popculturecrack

      I’m not from Van Buren, but I still have a problem with the actions of the school and your statements. To begin with, the establishment clause of the first Amendment Creates a right to be free from the establishment of a religion or preference for a religion by the state, in this case a public school.

      This country, is a secular nation, established as such by a plurality of religious and non religious individuals, and based upon both Christian and pagan values as well as on enlightenment thinking. It was not founded as a Christian nation or on exclusively christian values. My forefathers who helped found this country, didn’t fight for an exclusively Christian nation, and they didn’t help establish one either.

      By requiring public schools to abstain from supporting or promoting religious organizations, your right to freely exercise your religion is not violated. Specifically, an individual student may still pray during school, Christians may still practice their religion. However, you are not free to force those beliefs on others who do not hold them, nor are you free to use a governmental agency such as a public school to proselytize those beliefs and give them the authority or support of the school. This is because we have a separation of church and state, as established in the establishment and free exercise clauses of the First Amendment.

      Another problem I have is with your attempt to equate patriotism to your particular brand of theology. Americans can be atheists and still be patriots, this is because America is a secular nation that allows for religious or non religious belief. If any one is being unpatriotic it is you, when you demand others bow and scrape and show deference to your particular religious belief. You clearly hate the constitution and the freedoms and rights that this country was founded on, or else how could you scream and cry about how terrible it is that you can’t use the public school system to encourage the belief in an Abrahamic god.

      In conclusion I echo your request, please leave America. If you want to live in a religious theocracy I suggest ISL.

  • billy

    If anyone bothered to actually read the constitution they would have known the constitution says Freedom of Religion. They would also recognize that the government nor this school are forcing children to convert. Trying to pretend that these children wont encounter the largest religion in the world is just silly. If they actually had some information and not half truths and misperceptions they could make their own choice. I can persoally tell you I do believe in God and he is very real.He enters the hearts of those who ask his forgiveness and this entering can be felt very strongly. All men and women know deeply within themselves there is the God. Many just try to hide,, explain him away, or make excuses so they dont have to face him or admit many of the things they do they know are wrong. They will go to great lengths to pretend God isnt real. This is what you see occurring with this group. Stand up to them. The light is greater than the darkness and the constitution protects religion.

      • Tim

        That is not the what the first amendment is saying. It says they CAN MAKE NO LAW respecting the establishment of a religion or prohibit the FREE EXERCISE OF. You cannot expect or force ANYONE to check their religious beliefs at the schoolhouse door. In no way is there a law forcing any religion on anyone here.

      • jim

        Then it would be TREASON for any of our presidents to attend church services at the capital building right. That would be a big NO-NO if what your saying is true. . .right?. . . .

      • Susan McAndrew

        Yes. In order to have freedom of religion, you must also have freedom FROM forced observance of the religion of others. For years in Utah, lessons on Mormonism were part of every school day. Non-mormon children either had to sit through this, or announce to their teachers and classmates that they were outsiders. Not a good situation. The Courts rightly declared this to be illegal.

        Being free to practice your religion means that government employees cannot tell you or your children which religious belief is right or good or approved. A public school teacher cannot give your child a handout entitled “10 Reasons to be an Atheist” nor can she give your child a handout entitled “10 Reasons to be a Christian.”

    • Paul

      Which of the thousands of gods throughout history are you proposing is the “real” one exactly? Oh yeah it’s just the one you decide is real that is the true one. With 1000s different religions and over 40,000 different denominations of christianity alone, I hope you understand that atheist believe in only one less god than you do. The religious play this crazy roulette wheel of faith and then claim their number choice was the only correct one. It’s laughable at this point and frankly just pathetic and sad.

      • jim

        The question Paul who is the Creator our Declaration refers to. Because it refers to one Paul there is no getting around that. yes yes 10,000’s of gods but the founders agreed and unanimously which means (without opposition/with agreement of all involved) signed our document that clearly acknowledges a. A… (singular) Creator. If your going to claim to know what our founding fathers meant then lets start right there Paul “not fighting about opinion because that is opinion Paul I haven’t even shared mine yet frankly has no relevance I will debate facts if you want Paul.

      • Susan McAndrew

        Jim – each person is endowed by “their creator….” Not “the Creator” or “My Creator” or “Our Creator.” There is mention of a single god. Each citizen decides for him/herself who their creator is.

      • Paul

        Jim just because you want to feel special and believe the “creator” mentioned is the one you believe in does not make it so. It’s called a generalization.

    • GodBlessAmerica!

      Very well said. And we must always remember that the victory has already been won! Our God is a big God and He’s got this.

  • Josh

    I am a Christian and am FOR separation of church and state. If you advocate one religion, you have to advocate all (if you go by the Constitution) and I don’t want my kid taught that all “paths” are the same. It your kids belief is true, you shouldn’t worry whether or not the government validates your beliefs. If your belief is true, it will endure without your religion being taught in school. When you teach a religion in school, you have a lot of kids that “think” they are that religion and it actually waters your religion down. This happened when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman empire; the empire said “you’re Christian because you are Roman” and they forced them to become baptized and identity with Christian and lots and lots of people came into the “church” who really didn’t believe. Same thing happened in America in the 1900s which gave rise to Cultural Christianity, which is yucky. By the way, God is never mentioned in the Constitution (besides …in the year of our lord”); it prohibits the establishment of a State religion and believe me, you don’t want that-just look at history.

    • jim

      Josh, I ask you please if you want to know what our founding fathers intended and meant then study not only the documents but bills,proclamations, letters, and addresses.The Declaration of Independence was signed unanimously they all agreed Josh and it acknowleges our Creator.I agree state religion BAD! but separation of church and state is not in the constitution and doesn’t mean what most think (because they listen and dont read) the first amendment does not mean what you advocate for one you have to for all did you know Jefferson attended church in the capital building. I mean come on if what we are taught is true then that would not have happened right! specially back then so conclude you dont have to water your beliefs down or even hide them even if your the president of the USA. Read Jefferson’s addresses he wrote to the american people and lots of others.

      • Josh

        Well, yes, the Declaration mentions God but the Constitution does not. Even Jews and Muslims and some American Indians are monotheistic and hold to a the fact of a Creator. Are you saying that all I have to believe is that there is a creator and I am a Christian?Jefferson cut out the parts of the Bible he didn’t agree with (anything supernatural like the virgin birth and the resurrection he cut out of his Bible). Adams, in the Treaty of Tripoli stated explicitly that the US was not a Christian Nation and the treaty was ratified by congress. I have studied the documents and I am a Christian. Jefferson had slaves yet he wrote that all men are created equal. Now, would you say there is something wrong with his theology? I would. How could a Christian nation condone slavery?

        I hope you are not listening to people like David Barton; he is not an historian. This is simply one of those gray areas where being a christian and being an american conflict. Too many people practice this weird hybrid of American Churchianity based on the American Dream. Jesus wants us to wake up from our American Dream.

      • jim

        Josh, No sir I am not telling you what you must believe to be a christian your Bible tells you that info. I am simply saying that a good portion of our founding fathers believed in God, a Creator and who’s to say what or which god they believed in me you without researching each one of them in depth (which i am doing just slowly)and some that didnt still respected moral teaching from religion and some maybe didn’t I think they ALL agreed that they didnt want their new government to control what they believing and how to live out their beliefs. But really to understand what they really believed in you comb threw lots and lots of documents. As far as listening to one person or another I will cross check and research any statement that is out of someone’s mouth or writings I like established facts like the letter from Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association I can read it myself and see just how the phrase “seperation of church and state” are used and understand the context. As for the treaty of tripoli people use article 11 to prove this country is secular which it does not prove that now I’m not saying this country is a Christian nation Because there are not direct claims to that just like “secular nation is not” but keep in mind our country was dealing with money hungry muslims and they don’t like Christians (to death) really. just saying. ready more then the treaty read letters that refer to it read jefferson’s papers on the subject you might think they needing to say that in the treaty. you know maybe maybe not wasn’t there all i can to is seek the truth threw real sources not comentary or opinions. And I plan on reading more about the slave issue you brought up that’s a good point. but you lost me after “he is not a historian” sorry not being rude really dont know what you mean.

  • FEDUP

    Bill of Rights: “Grants freedom of worship, speech & press, the right to petition the government & to assemble peacefully.”

  • Jay W. Walker

    ok I am a Baptist and i don’t think the school should do this and hear me out first. I know that if they can do this then Muslim and Wicca and all kinds of other religions should be able to. you cant allow one with out the other.

    • Gayla

      The others, in a sense are already adding their belief to our children daily, by silencing those who love the Lord and who also would like to share. We are told not to hide our candle under a bushel for a reason. This is why our world is in the condition it is in today…a lack of faith by God’s people. I would tell my brothers and sisters to continue strongly in the race.

  • Keith Joslin

    Good for you VBSD! God is the center of all of this. Its about time we start waking up. When God was taken out and corporal punishment , look what has happened. No concern for one another or respect. Keep it up Superintendent we have your back and God Bless you!!!!!!

  • Meredith

    OUTSIDE of the school a teacher is free to do whatever they wish to preach their faith but INSIDE the school they are active district employees with a position of clear and unquestionable authority over students. So abusing that teacher/student relationship to evangelize while still receiving a district paycheck is unethical. You can bet more people would be in an uproar if the teachers in this assembly were trying to spread the faith of Islam, but if this kind of thing is tolerated then ALL faiths should be fair game (I’ll bring the hummus and baklava!). It doesn’t matter if this assembly was before school, after school, or during lunch these teachers clearly overstepped their boundaries.

  • billy

    Im tired and about to go to bed. Im not interested in arguing with anyone but will address these two questions.

    1. Darrel, the gov doesn’t endorse any religion. You and I both know that. Even though neither of us were there Im sure you and I both know no has been forced to convert in Van Buren schools…… Children should at least have some basic FACTUAL knowledge of Christianity especially living in the south. The hiding of heads in the sand wont make Christianity go away.

    2. Paul, that’s a silly question. You know in your heart exactly which God I’m referring to. The one and only who has been worshipped from the beginning till the current time. The one who foretold this very time and the times to quickly follow. All false gods fall away into the dust. There are men now and men to come that will claim to be a god. These too will pass away. As far as your play on science how many scientists agree with each other? Does a few years in college and looking at some rocks qualify anyone to tell you how the world was made? Was anyone here when it was made? When did theories become facts? Last I checked theories are just guesses and as you and I both know when you start guessing you often guess wrong. You have better odds hitting the jackpot every night at a casino than guessing how the Earth came to be. Do you have weeds in your yard? Take one of those simple weeds and look at it. All of mankind and science cannot create from scratch a single weed. However man has been given the ability to manipulate creation and has done so from the beginning. Life and creation of new life man can not do. Do you believe if I threw some metal and plastic in a heated pool they would build themselves into a Lexus? Don’t be deceived by the story our bodies built themselves. They certainly did not and each cell is coded with exactly what it is supposed to do. A little to complicated for a pool of hot water and dirt. Besides all this God can be felt despite not being seen. He designed it this way from the beginning. After feeling his presence you would never again be able to deny his existence, but you have to seek him and ask his forgiveness. So simple a child can do it, but so many men deny him and wont admit their wrongs.

    • Paul

      yes yes billy your personal opinions and lack of any evidence are extremely convincing. Especially the part that your god has been worshiped the longest when the bible was plagiarized from stories of Buddha, Krishna, Odysseus, Romulus, Dionysus, Heracles, Glycon, Zoroaster, Attis, Horus, and the Epic of Gilgamesh. I’m an atheist which means I have the lack of belief in any of these gods but I can understand how an idea so simple at it’s core would be extremely difficult for one such as you to be able to grasp. But you are right in that I did know exactly which god you choose to be correct. If you were born in the middle east you would be saying Allah is the one true god. Your ignorance of the world is not surprising at all. But hey carry on, most people stop believing in fairy tales as children but some like you carry these beliefs into adulthood. Not much can be done about it.

    • Darrel Henschell

      Billy: “1. Darrel, the gov doesn’t endorse any religion.”>>

      It does if we were to allow you to use government state teachers to endorse support and evangelize for your religion, as this school was clearly attempting to do. Can’t do that.

  • Paul

    Here is the catcher. If they had been assembled and were asked by school employees “who believes in Allah” and if a student hadn’t found Allah yet, they could be helped by teachers, the Christians would be all up in arms but because it is their religion being put on display they are all for it. The joy of religious hypocrites.

  • billy

    You should actually read the Bible sometime and look at the history. Pay special attention to the prophecies and you will see them come to pass. Have a lovely night Paul.

    • Paul

      I’ve read the bible cover to cover multiple times while under the brainwashing of the christian religion for 30+ years. Which prophecy is the most convincing to you by chance? I’ll let you list the top 20 if you want. Followers of Nostradamus believe he predicted 100s of prophecies so 20 should be easy for an entire book written by many different authors spoken to by god himself. It amazes me that such a powerful god couldn’t have just given us a book written in his own hand that would be easily read by any language speaker instantly(heck he could have written his word in the sky itself for all to see), but instead it was written by goat herders and only seems to mention places in walking distances of those authors.

  • Dennis Fletcher

    Good for Central Elementry, as for the Freedom from Religion they have no say in what disaplinary action is to be taken. Title VIII of Public Law 98-377 Sec 802 it allows students to hold meetings for non curriculum related activities and to assure that the attendance of students is voluntary.

  • Dennis Fletcher

    If the atheist children or Islamic students want to have an assembly then they need to ask the principal. If it was voluntary and student initiated then there was no wrong doing on part of the school. God Bless America before these liberal God hating people take over.

    • Wizard of Woo

      If teachers were involved in this, ‘disciplinary’ action should be taken. Litigation along with the results of losing, gets very, very expensive for the taxpayers. If you open that can of worms expect a slimy mess, slithering everywhere. What liberal god hating people are you referring to, Dennis? Atheists don’t hate god/s, they don’t believe in god/s. You don’t have a problem with a sign under the god loves you sign that says, satan loves you more than god, come to our meet in the lunchroom before school where some of our teachers can guide you to the path of satanism? It’s religious freedom after all and to deny them the same religious rights to proselytize in the same manner and avenues that you enjoy gives you special privilege. In case you are unaware many christians also do not support this type of thing. Many here seem to fail to understand what an atheist is, so I really don’t expect them to grasp what separation of church and state is. It’s not someone trying to be mean to you or persecute you, it’s just that you are required to follow the law like everyone else, no matter the religion you follow or the lack there of and like it or not.

  • atc8824

    Well if you think God isn’t real then how can he hurt you or offend you?So now liberals are offended by somebody they say isn’t real.What scared he is and your going down down down in a burning ring of fire?

    • Wizard of Woo

      You don’t get it at all ATC. God doesn’t hurt me at all, never, not possible. It’s people believing in it, the bigotry associated with it and discrimination caused by it that I have a problem with. That and christians thinking they are specially privileged and can break the law anytime they wish. You claim to know a lot for a person that has not one clue of evidence to back your invisible man in the sky claim. Care to throw out just one bit of evidence to back your claim that i’m going down down down in a burning ring of fire. Comments like this and people like you are why things like this should never happen in a school. It’s not that liberals or anyone else are offended by a made up god, people are tired of christians thinking they can break the law and get away with it, without any repercussions. If you are for this, you are for violations of the constitution and law breakers, that in case you were unaware, is exactly what this is about, teachers as government agents willingly breaking the law, breaking the law. Say liberal all you want, it doesn’t help your argument, rather it makes you look ignorant as the day is long.

  • Whitney

    It’s so funny how the details are left out. It was voluntary, students were told what is was (SWAT-Students With A Testimony), and this was not “pushed” onto any student. Let’s get the details before we go all crazy. Don’t like it, don’t send your kids. Pretty simple.

    • ren

      How many parents knew about it? Why are the staff involved with it at a public school? Why bait kids with “games and snacks?” This seriously smells fishy.

  • brandon

    I hope this makes national news! It is disgusting how many of you get your facts from “faux news”. The bible belt ranks last in education! It’s crazy how many of you blame our ills on religion being taken out of school! You people are sick!

    • Wizard of Woo

      Lol! This comment deserves a heartfelt laugh. Americans should be scared of the consequences when they break the law. The point of punishment for violating the law is to deter the crime in the first place.

    • ren

      A fine bit of hyperbole. Clearly your definition of extremist is lacking. Let me know when the liberal “extremists” quit trying to enforce the Constitution and start beheading people like the religious extremists.

  • margret

    I will begin the comment by stating that I amnot a student from VB but I am a student in Arkansas public schools. I feel this gives me a perspective that many of you are ignoring. How the children feel about the assembly. I personally do believe in God, but even then when I attended religious assemblies at my school (student run but with teacher attendance) I felt out of place. I felt pressured to make sure everyone there knew I believed or I would be outcast from school. The majority of students attended these meetings even if they didn’t believe so that they would be accepted by other students. This fear of rejection is present enough in schools with out the added pressure of having religious beliefs put on you. I believe in God and I would have without those meetings. I was raised

    • Paul

      Religion especially the Christian religion in America has always been the bully in the room. This has worked to keep nonbelievers or even questioning believers in silence for far too many years. There is a revolution occurring in America right at this moment in time and it is a revolt against the most oppressing religion of them all, the christian religion. People are gaining their voices and they will no longer keep us silent. Christians have been use to getting their way in whatever they do especially the south but that time is now changing. They will no longer bully us into silence. This nation was founded on secular principles and values and we are tired of the bullying voice of the Christians and their tyranny.

  • margret

    (Sorry this is a continuation of a previous post that was to long) in a Christian family and these meetings only made me dislike the religion. We shouldn’t have meetings like this in school. It just makes even kids who believe dislike it. We are forcing beliefs on children with the fear of rejection from their peers, and personally that’s not how I would want to be introduced to love that God has.

  • Cody

    But so that it will not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no longer to any man in this name.” And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all [n]in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”-Acts 4:17-20. Sometimes when you have had that encounter with Jesus you just can’t stop talking about Him. I’m thankful that this event was optional, and has been optional for years. I’m also thankful for the “God loves you” sign. It’s oxymoronic to take something like that away. I’m praying for this school; I’m also praying for the accuser. As a believer I can’t help but want to use this opportunity as a chance to love them as well. In Jesus name…come Lord.

  • margret

    God should not be an excuse for children to bully children, and in meetings like this that is what he becomes. Speek about him all you wish, spread your beliefs to your hearts content, but when students, like me, and even those who believe in God, like me, are afraid of not being accepted by other students or the staff because they either didn’t believe of aren’t vocal enough about their beliefs then there is a problem that need to be adressed. Children are mean enough to each other without the added pressures of religion in their school.

  • Lucius Whitman

    This sort of nonsense needs to stop. It has been long standing legal precedent that this sort of thing is not allowed, and you don’t get to break the law just because you think your god wants you to.

  • Jack

    I love how people use the constitution to cry about their gun rights but when someone uses it to not have religious dogma shoved down their throat, or in this case, be asked what you’re relgiious or non-religious views are, these same people disavow the constitution. You can’t have it both ways people.

  • AmericaBlessGod

    The founding fathers would be rolling in their grave if they knew what has become of America. God created this nation to be a Christian nation based on Biblical values. That is what we were until the 1960s when we decided that we as a nation no longer had to follow the standard of God. We have gone from a righteous nation in the 1950s to the modern day incarnation of Sodom and Gomorrah in just over 50 years. God is patient and longsuffering but he is not mocked. Judgment is coming to America unless this country gets on its knees and repents. God will bless a nation whose God is the LORD. God set a standard in the earth and He expects humanity to obey it. Those who do not will be turned into hell along with all nations that forget God.

    • popculturecrack

      @ Americablessgod: You need to read some history books not written by Thomas Barton. The United States was founded as a secular nation, not a Christian nation. Don’t believe me? Read article six paragraph two of the constitution and the establishment clause of the first amendment. Then read the Treaty of Tripoli.

      This country was founded by Christians and non-Christians alike, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, Thomas Young, etc. All these men helped found the United States, none were christian. There is no explicit mention of god out side of general mentions in the preamble and the typical dating system used at the time.

      What specific biblical values were used? Few of the ten commandments are actually the basis for laws, and most are rejected by the constitution. Outside of slavery, which is a biblical value, much of the basis for our government was pagan in origin and not Christian, so you are really very wrong in believing the United States was founded as a Christian nation on exclusively Christian values.

    • Paul

      So this country was great up until 1960 huh? lol You have to be white for sure. Let’s just forget all the slavery, no women’s rights, and segregation right? The oppressive times of early America before 1960, good times, good times.

  • Meredith

    I guess I didn’t realize just how many idiots live in Van Buren. The separation between church and state exists for a reason. This assembly violates that standard. Period.

  • AZ

    I’m glad all you redneck hicks live in AR because if you were in AZ where I live we would have aborted you years ago and if not, shot you now with our guns!

  • John

    Evangelizing in public schools by school staff is forbidden by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and is SETTLED case law. Everybody’s opinion on the subject on this message board is irrelevant. I will now go make a donation to the Freedom from Religion Foundation. I have told my two children that attend the Van Buren School District to take notes on what is going on so I can feed the information to the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Have a good day!

  • Charles

    I went to Van Buren schools from middle to my third year of high school. I was raised Christian but as I grew up I moved to atheism. My perspective was always that religion was always everywhere in the schools, and always the Christian religion. I feel very glad to see that something is being done about it. I see this as a scare that will cause ripples all across the school system there. Religion will be pushed a little further from the school. I do, however, know that many people will be upset by it. And to them, I tip my hat.

  • True AMERICAN

    Wait until judgement day – there are no atheist in foxholes! If this meeting was to be voluntary and held before school hours, then a request should have been required and formally presented to the school board of directors for approval. IF during school hours, then there should be NO meeting of this nature – INCLUDING atheism! If Americans want a change in the constitution for this matter, then the correct procedures need to be followed. Until there is a change in the constitution, the current laws need to be followed.

  • Bob

    The minute I read this was from ” Freedom From Religion Foundation” the subject lost all validity. This group is full of Hypocrites and bullies. Zero respect for them. They give Atheists a bad name.

    • Wizard of Woo

      The minute I read your response, I knew you were a troll. Ridiculously ignorant statement and no evidence to back your claim as usual. Move along folks, nothing to see here.

  • JWH

    “Here’s an assembly. OK, everybody, are you Christian? if you’re not, ask a school staff member about it! Everybody should have Jesus in his heart!” Nope no coercion there. None at all.

  • Darrel

    “We in the United States, above all, must remember that lesson, for we were founded as a nation of openness to people of all beliefs. And so we must remain. Our very unity has been strengthened by our pluralism. We establish no religion in this country, we command no worship, we mandate no belief, nor will we ever. Church and state are, and must remain, separate. All are free to believe or not believe, all are free to practice a faith or not, and those who believe are free, and should be free, to speak of and act on their belief.”
    –Ronald Reagan, Speech to Temple Hillel and Community Leaders in Valley Stream (October 26, 1984),
    http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/US-Israel/RR10_26_84.html

  • Retired

    VBSD is under a Federal Court ruling from an incident in the 80’s on prayer. A parent, Mrs. Steel, was not satisfied with the response by the then Superintendent, Mitchell, on her complaint regarding prayer and her child, and filed suit. The Federal judge was particularly harsh with the District’s attorney stating that ” …he knew or should have known…” that the activity was wrong. This ruling had no end date and is still in effect. I hope the current Superintendent advises their counsel of this.

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