No doubt human beings read the Christian bible for various reasons whether it is to learn how to live according to Stone and Bronze Age sensibilities in the 21st Century, or to verify that America’s bastardized version of the faith is founded on fantastical lies, or for academic studies into archaic mythology and superstition. For some people it is probable that reading the Christian bible is sheer torture, and it may explain why an Oregon school forced LGBTQ students to read Christian bible scriptures as punishment.
First, although America officially began lurching towards becoming an evangelical theocracy shortly before Trump’s poorly attended inauguration, it is still patently unconstitutional to insert any religion into public education – regardless what “preacher” Pence or Education Secretary and evangelical extremist Betsy DeVos believe. It almost certainly occurs often but is hardly reported for a couple of reasons. Either because victims are terrified of the theocrats, or because there are far too many evangelical extremists in power who regularly flout the U.S. Constitution by inserting and promoting some form of the Christian religion in public schools they refuse to accept or believe that their Christian bible is not the Constitution and ultimate law of the land and they will inflict damage on anyone claiming otherwise.
It is noteworthy that the evangelical extremists who reject the Constitution as heretical also believe that the Constitution imparts religious liberty authorizing evangelicals to single out women and members of the LGBTQ community for “special treatment” regardless of equal rights laws or federal protections against discrimination. Of course it is abominable and contrary to the Constitution to discriminate against any American, but to discriminate against gay students and then use the Christian bible for punishment in the public schools would be criminal if America wasn’t creeping towards theocracy.
In a rural region about 200 miles from Portland Oregon the North Bend School District is facing what are being termed “serious discrimination” charges for “forcing at least one LGBTQ student to read the Christian bible as punishment.” The discrimination aspect entails allegations that the district singles out LGBT students for “separate or different rules of behavior, sanctions, or other treatment;” such as a school administrator “forcing LGBT students to read the Christian bible while they were being disciplined.”
Of course the district, and likely the culprits, summarily denied the allegations because like all common criminal they knew they were violating more than a few rules. However, it seems certain that at some juncture someone in authority actually scanned the Old Testament and read “Number Nine” of the BIG Ten Commandments prohibiting lying under pain of death. Possibly then the theocrat using their bible for punishment realized they were courting death according to Old Testament rules if they continued lying. The administrator in question, although not contrite, confessed to the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) investigators that the allegations were indeed true. It also was revealed that another teacher was reported as equating same-sex marriage to marrying a dog — during taxpayer-funded public school lessons.
Part of the Oregon Department of Education investigation is whether the “forced Bible reading violated the student’s First Amendment rights, including the Establishment Clause which recognizes the separation of church and state.” Obviously, any introduction of religion in public school violates the Constitution, so there is no question that punishment by bible is a serious violation; obviously forcing any student to read it is violating the students’ rights.
The ODE letter to North Bend School District Superintendent Bill Yester said in part:
“There is substantial evidence to support the allegation that the district subjected LGBTQ students to separate or different rules of behavior, sanctions, or other treatment… The department finds that discrimination on the basis of sex and sexual orientation may have occurred.”
Coos Bay World provided excerpts from a “detailed account” of the three primary allegations lodged against the district.
Under the matter of “using the bible as punishment,” the ODE noted that:
“The District allegedly treated students differently on the basis of sex and sexual orientation when imposing discipline.”
The district also “failed to respond to sexual harassment complaints when those complaints were made by LGBTQ students.”
And finally, “District failed to take appropriate action to remedy a hostile environment after complaints had been made by LGBTQ students alleging that students and district staff had sexually harassed other students.” (author bold)
This incident should raise myriad red flags and incite outrage about the increasing imposition of religion occurring at the state and federal level, but it has not. It is likely increasing because at one time only an evangelical extremist would disagree that using the Bible for anything in the public schools violates the First Amendment; now the minority die-hard evangelical extremists run the government as an extension of their version of “the Church” in a burgeoning evangelical theocracy.
Under Supreme Court interpretations of the Constitution’s Establishment Clause, educators cannot use the Bible as a moral authority in public schools because it is an “establishment of religion” that violates the separation between church and state. The concept of separating church and state, although enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution is an abomination and “unconstitutional” according most religious right fanatics, including Mike “preacher” Pence and J. Beauregard Sessions.
The ODE’s letter to the District also noted that one school counselor the students appealed to for assistance faced retaliation from the district officials after he began advocating for LGBTQ students. The counselor said:
“These students have required quite a bit of support, but luckily they have some good family and friends. A lot of students who have been involved didn’t come forward or remained anonymous so it’s two main students who spearheaded the appeal. They had the courage to do this.”
No-one should be surprised at this latest imposition of religion in the public school system, or that LGBTQ students have been singled out and “openly discriminated against and forced to read the Christian bible” both as a form of punishment and to “demean LGBTQ students.” There is a crusade at the federal level to force evangelical teaching on public school students as the be all, end all “national moral authority,” as well as to inculcate America’s youth into the superstitious worldview of bigots according to a religion.
Another aspect of this atrocity in a secular nation is that, save a few local and regional media outlets, this all-too-common story has been woefully under-reported, if reported at all. That dearth of reporting is part and parcel of why evangelical extremists, religious right activists, and Republicans nationwide continue flouting the Constitution with veritable impunity. Sadly, although they only make up a minority of the population, the evangelical theocrats now co-own the federal government with the Kochs and corporations and if Republicans are not thrown out of power quickly, this particular incident is going to be a regular occurrence. And if the Christian Dominionists achieve their goal, it will not be unconstitutional, it will be the law of the land and reporting it as discrimination will be a crime.