Another Christian Thinks Laws Don’t Apply to Christians12 August, 2009
A Western Florida high school is learning an important lesson. Well, the principal (Frank Lay) and the athletic director (Robert Freeman) are learning a lesson. And it is a lesson with which certain Christianist dominionist fundamentalists have a great deal of trouble.
For the past 20 or so years, (from Americans United)
under Lay’s leadership, Pace High School became known as “the Baptist Academy.” Teachers and staff delivered prayers and invited students or outside leaders to lead prayers during school activities. Teachers read from the Bible and discussed church attendance with students. Students were encouraged to attend religious clubs and incorporate religion into their schoolwork.
Which, if this were a private school, say an actual Baptist Academy, would be no big deal.
Except that Pace High School is a public high school. As in paid for by all taxpayers, of all (or no) creeds, of all (or no) beliefs. As in part of the government. As in subject to the United States Supreme Court’s repeated decisions regarding the original intent of the writer’s of the United States Constitution. As in lawsuit city.
In (from the Pensacola News Journal)
Last August, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the Santa Rosa County School Board, then-Superintendent John Rogers and Lay on behalf of two unnamed Pace High students.
Citing examples throughout the district, the students said school officials violated the Constitution by promoting their religious beliefs in schools.
For years, Lay had done exactly that, according to supporters and critics alike, and his actions had gone largely unchallenged.
Within a few months, the district admitted the allegations and hammered out an agreement that would take religion out of the classroom.
U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers approved the agreement. A temporary injunction was issued on Jan. 19, then was made permanent on May 6.
Well, that makes sense. After all, the school district and the judge came to an agreement. Everyone involved knew that the judge was right, the law was clear, and school would not do it again. End of story?
Well, we all know that right wing fundamentalists are extremely law abiding. Whether it comes to torture, election law, or just filling out marriage licenses, obeying the law is, well, something that they . . . have a real problem with:
Nine days later, after Lay signed the temporary injunction, he was accused of violating the order.
On Jan. 28, he asked the school athletic director, Robert Freeman, to “bless the food” at a luncheon at Pace High for school personnel and booster club members instrumental in helping get a new fieldhouse. The school’s culinary class prepared the meal.
Four-term School Board member Jo Ann Simpson, who was at the luncheon, couldn’t believe her ears.
And every single tax-payer in the district should be pissed, too. Because asshats like Lay and Freeman are costing the school district money. Money which could go to preserving art and music instruction. Or hire English as a Second Language teachers. Or math teachers. Or books for the library.
Why did Freeman do this? To stand up for his principles as a Christian (quick question: if the principal were Muslim, would anyone in the district allow him to prosyletize? (okay, I know the answer to that one)).
And are the constituents pissed at the way these asshats are pissing away the tax money? Of course:
Lay’s solid base of supporters includes the Rev. Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church. A member of that church for 10 years, Lay is a deacon and Bible teacher. Traylor believes the consent decree is unconstitutional.
“If it continues to stand as it is, we are going to see an avalanche of these kinds of things where teachers cannot bow their heads to pray,” Traylor said. “The consent order needs to be overturned, and I know there is work being done to make a run at that. There needs to be some common sense in the way they are dealing with this issue.”
Traylor called Lay a family man with great integrity.
“I’ve had Mr. Lay speak in my pulpit, so I have the ultimate confidence in him as I do not turn that loose lightly,” he said. “He is a strong leader, and we have a great relationship.”
Many in Santa Rosa are puzzled over the contempt charge.
“A blessing over a meal to me is not evangelism or proselytizing,” said Dana O’Keefe, mother of two Pace High graduates. “It’s just thanking a higher power for a meal.”
Robert Smith, who owns an insurance agency in Milton, and several other friends of Lay have set up a Web site and a Lay/Freeman Defense Fund to help pay legal expenses or potential fines. They also are selling T-shirts and plan a concert and dinner fundraiser Sept. 10 at the Farmer’s Opry.
“I don’t think people realize Frank Lay is a patriotic American citizen and a law-abiding American citizen,” Smith said. “He is a man of character and integrity, and that is why I am helping him.”
Integrity. Just thanking a higher power. Patriotic. Law-abiding.
The radical religious right has decided that breaking the law is a religious crusade.
News flash, folks: the Constitution of the United States of America exists to protect the minority. Majority rule must be tempered. And it is by our laws. Teachers work for the government. They have no right to impose their religious beliefs on students even if a majority of the students agree with their hallucinations!
Teachers are role models for students. As are coaches and principals. I guess disobeying judges, ignoring laws and using the Constitution as toilet paper passes for a good example in some parts of our country.