Cross-posted @ the Atheist Oasis
As with all cultural anachronisms, there’s going to be a helluva a lotta cleaning up to do:
It seems “Bible Man,” an individual who proselytizes to public school students, recently discovered that the U.S. Constitution is his kryptonite now that some Tennessee schools have halted his overtly religious programs.
“Bible Man,” whose real name is Horace Turner, Jr., leads monthly assemblies in public schools in which he tells biblical stories to elementary children. The original Bible Man, Horace Turner Sr., started this program about 40 years ago.
Turner had been showing up regularly at Grundy County Schools, with displays of Baby Jesus in tow. He also sings religious songs. As a result, a local atheist mom whose child attended Turner’s assemblies felt Bible Man was violating the First Amendment by pushing Christianity on impressionable children.
So the mother asked the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) to complain on her behalf. FFRF explained that Bible Man’s assembles were a constitutional problem, so Grundy County decided to put a stop to the program.
Unfortunately, that decision was not well received by all. Yahoo! Parenting reported that the mom who filed the complaint about Bible Man has been subjected to some truly vile comments, including death threats and an internet meme depicting a house on fire and the words: “He was an outsider and against the Bible Man coming to our schools, so we threw him a house warming party.”
The mom, who chooses to remain anonymous for obvious reasons, told WCRB in Chattanooga that she did not intend to make people angry, she just wanted her child to have an alternative to Bible Man’s proselytizing.
“We don’t want people to be mad, we just want people to make sure there’s an alternative something for the kids to do,” she told the NBC affiliate. “At first he did not know that he didn’t have to go. As he got older, it bothered him that he had to sit through this because it’s not his religion.”
Even if the Bible Man assemblies were optional, the school clearly did a poor job of communicating that. And it’s likely that peer pressure made attendance a requirement even if showing up was not technically mandatory. Such coercive religious activity is never acceptable in public schools.
Despite all of the anger over Bible Man’s apparent departure from Grundy County Schools, he may not be gone for long.
“I believe the perception was that we’re trying to get rid of him, and that was not the perception we wanted to present,” Dr. Willie Childers, interim director of Grundy County Schools, told WCRB. “At the last board meeting, there were several concerned citizens wanting to make sure that Bible Man or Mr. Turner will continue to be in Grundy County.”
Childers added that he would like to see the school implement a “club schedule” that would include an optional religious club that could be frequented by Bible Man.
This isn’t the first time Turner’s activities have yielded complaints from parents. Back in 2012, FFRF filed a complaint about his activities in Jackson County (Ala.) schools. But in that instance, the local school board chose to continue Bible Man’s assemblies because “our constituents are pretty adamant about what they want for their children,” Jackson County Schools Superintendent Ken Harding said at the time.
This likely won’t be the last we hear from Bible Man, especially since Grundy County seems determined to find a way to let him proselytize to students. And without more details, it’s unclear whether or not a proposed student religious club would be constitutionally sound. Clearly, the situation will have to be monitored.
Given that Bible Man has been a part of some public schools for decades, removing him will not be an easy process. But Bible Man will never be able to overcome the Constitution, which is a powerful kryptonite for those who do not respect the rights of others.
Well, Grundy County Schools can go suck an egg. It’s not important that the mob decide: that isn’t quite as democratic as most people think. What people want for their children as opposed to what they can have, can be (and in this instance) just too fucking bad. Personally, I find the constant whining and under-handed nonsense from these religious fruitcakes to be more than just obnoying* – these folks keep trying to invidiously inject their codswallop into the rest of us.
It is long-standing violations of this nature, perceived to be ‘institutional’ when in fact they are in clear violation of the Establishment clause, that will be difficult to root out. Accusations will fly (mostly whiny and persecutory in tone and context), the sort like ‘The ACLU is stripping religion out of our culture) – but what these folks don’t get, is that over the centuries, there were clear violations that were just glossed over. Complaints like the one cited in this post a hundred years ago, would elicit all sorts of responses, likely all unpleasant. And of course these good, humble, religious folk, what do they do? In the twenty-first century? Threaten to burn the woman’s house down. Nice. Gee, those bible classes sure paid off, didn’t they? Where ‘turning the other cheek’ translates to violence, and hints of arson are an appropriate response? Who knows what other cultural minefields we will have to tread in the days to come, but the march for equality must continue.
Till the next post then.
*My own portmanteau word combining ‘obnoxious’ and ‘annoying’ – which in hindsight, the word itself is also both.