Missouri Public School District Sued For Improper Religious Activities In Classroom

Independence High School Student Says History Teacher Promotes Christianity

Two civil liberties groups today filed suit in federal court against the Independence, Mo., School District for allowing improper religious activities in a high school history class.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri and Americans United for Separation of Church and State charged that teacher Chris Earley promoted Christianity in his classroom instruction in violation of the constitutional separation of church and state. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, also says that school officials refused to take appropriate steps to stop the teacher 's actions.

The case was filed on behalf of Truman High School student Ashley Heckman and her mother, Evelyn Welk, both residents of Independence, Mo. Heckman is a student in Earley's tenth-grade world history class.

According to the Welk v. Independence School District complaint, Earley repeatedly advanced his personal religious views through his classroom instruction. He required Heckman and her classmates to take notes from a sermon that denounced evolution as a hoax and promoted instead the account of creation from the Book of Genesis, showed the movie Jesus and His Times: The Story Begins and treated religious claims from the Bible as historical fact, required students to complete worksheets based on Christian theological teachings and ignored curriculum guidelines requiring objective study about the five major world religions.

Said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, "It's the job of parents, not public schools, to teach children religion. The Constitution forbids public schools to promote Christianity or any other faith. Teachers may not abuse the public trust by pushing their personal religious agenda in the classroom. "

Said Dick Kurtenbach, executive director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri, "It is absolutely essential that government be neutral on matters of religion. Such neutrality benefits both government and religion. "

The ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri is an advocacy organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of the Bill of Rights. It is an affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.