Zack Kopplin: Louisiana Public School System’s Harassment of 11-Year-Old Buddhist Student “Child Abuse” and “Potentially a Hate Crime”

Zack Kopplin is getting things done lately.


Today, the American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of parents Scott and Sara Lane, filed suit against the Sabine Parish School Board, Sabine Parish Superintendent of Education Sara Ebarb (pictured at left), Negreet High School Principal Gene Wright, and Negreet High School teacher Rita Roark for religiously harassing and intimidating their young son. The case is horrifying and cringe-worthy, and it reveals a culture of intolerance, ignorance, and bigotry. I’ll get to the specific details of this case in a moment, but first, it’s worth noting: As appalling as the details of this specific case are, none of this should be too surprising.


I have been covering these issues for years now, and despite the repeated protestations of Governor Bobby Jindal, Superintendent John White, and members of the Louisiana Senate Education Committee- most notably Senator Conrad Appel, it has always seemed abundantly obvious that they have absolutely no respect…

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About jonnyscaramanga

I grew up as a Christian fundamentalist in the UK. Now I am writing a book and blog about what that's like, and what fundamentalists believe.

Posted on January 23, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Aren’t christians a loving bunch ! NOT !

    • Don’t tar them all with the same brush.

      • Maybe I should use different brushes. One of bigotry, one of hypocrisy, one of hatred, one of anti-science, one of meanness, one of arrogance, one of Dark Agedness, one of dogma, one of brainwashing, one of delusion, ….I think you get my point!

      • I think you know what I meant and you’re being obtuse. I know you were just making a joke, but some of this site’s biggest supporters are Christians. We might think they’re wrong, but you can be wrong without being a bigot, or homophobic, or anti-science, mean, or hateful.

  2. This is so far out of my experience or comprehension that I find it almost impossible to imagine something like this actually happening. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I don’t believe it happened, just that I can’t understand why or how.

  3. When one is exposed to the power and influence and scope of assumptions that tie meaningful and purposeful and moral experiences to belief in a specific theistic construct and one stands outside of this tribal thinking (and become its target as The Other) – one begins to appreciate just how insidious – how anti-human – are the effects of this groupthink on self worth. What we then find are similar effects to the same cause – empowering assumptions asserted to be true without arbitration by reality – in such seemingly far flung fields as human rights, equality laws, human dignity of personhood, personal choice, access to first world medical practices, and so on.

    It is very difficult to expose how and why and to what effect this groupthink discrimination – for what are assumed to be good reasons, moral reasons, meaningful and purposeful reasons – causes real harm when the wounds are carried only within. Kudos to jonny for starting to expose this kind of hidden harm in the educational assumptions that drive ACE.

  4. @ Rickray1 – I’m a Christian, and an ex-fundamentalist, and even an ex-athiest, and I think this site is keen.

    @ Tildeb – I think you summed it up with “Tribal Thinking.” Humanity, by its very nature, tends to divide itself into semi-arbitrary groups. If one is not a member, but lives within a tribe, there was, is, and evermore shall be friction. For instance, if I lived in a completely athiest community, and continued to practice Christianity, I’m pretty sure there’d be some mockery made of me, yes? And it would be wrong of them to do it, wouldn’t it? But it’d still happen, right? Or if I was a Democrat in an all-Republican district, or vice-versa.

    The surprising thing isn’t that this happens, but that it happens so rarely. I think that speaks highly of humanity in general.

    @ Everyone else – this teacher unquestionably went too far. When I was in school, my biology teacher was a Jehovah’s Witness, which created some pretty awkward instances, as you can probably imagine. Even so, my JW teacher stuck to the state curriculum and taught stuff, even if it contradicted her beliefs, because that was the job.

    What I find disturbing is that in the Fundamentalist community, “Evolutionist” = “Atheist” and that’s simply not the case. I hear kids at church say things like “My Biology teacher makes me learn this stuff, I guess he’s an atheist or something.” Or “I have to learn stuff about Islam because I guess my social studies teacher doesn’t believe in God, or whatever.” This is reprehensible to me. When I was a kid, and a fundamentalist, we were aware there were three options: 1) Creation 2) Theistic Evolution and 3) Evolution. We rejected 2 and 3, of course, but we understood that 2 existed. We didn’t think people who believed this stuff were going to hell, and we didn’t believe it was essential for salvation, we just felt it was misguided on the whole.

    In the 30 years since then, things seem to have deteriorated to the point where Fundamentalists no longer recognize the possibility of 2) at all, and any deviation from holy writ is automatically equated with atheism.

    • Thanks for the comment.

      Two points: polio is natural , but that doesn’t make it something we should excuse or tolerate or use as a reason to put up with it. Tribal thinking is a sequential aspect of creating artificial constructs that divide people into various us-them groupings. Like polio and the detrimental affects it causes, tribal thinking is something we need to individually strive to eradicate in the area of the public domain. There is only Us.

      The second point is off topic but I cannot let your view that there are justified and different understandings about evolution go unchallenged: there is only evolution, which is true (justified by overwhelming evidence adduced from mutually supporting fields of inquiry). There are also different mechanisms by which evolution operates (and sometimes there’s debate about which one may play a larger or smaller role). There are other faith-based beliefs about evolution, and you’ve listed two of them, but none are similarly (or even remotely) justified: creationism and theistic evolution are not ideas that can be adduced from reality but must be imposed on it for reasons other than seeking biological understanding of how life changes over time. There is zero evidence for either, and this is simply a brute fact that makes many religious people squirm in discomfort, who mislabel this fact as ‘atheist’ or ‘intolerant’ or anti-religious’ or what have you; however, these religious notions about evolution are as compatible with understanding why evolution is true as fish are to understanding the operation of a bicycle.

      • Tidleb,

        I said

        >>I think you summed it up with “Tribal Thinking.” Humanity, by its very nature, tends to divide itself into semi-arbitrary groups. If one is not a member, but lives within a tribe, there was, is, and evermore shall be friction.<> And it would be wrong of them to do it, wouldn’t it? But it’d still happen, right?<>I cannot let your view that there are justified and different understandings about evolution go unchallenged: there is only evolution<>creationism and theistic evolution are not ideas that can be adduced from reality<<

        Granted, but perhaps to avoid confusion you could define what you mean by "Theistic Evolution."

  5. That’s really weird. I wrote a longer more detailed comment, but it just got all mangled into what you see above.

    Ok, repeating it from memory:

    I didn’t say that such behavior was acceptable, I even said it was bad if you read my initial comment. I simply said that it’s understandable – or perhaps predictable would be a better word – but not that it’s ok. It’s something we Christians need to work against. And many of us are.

    As to the other thing, I think you completely missed my point. I never said there were “Justified and different understandings” of Evolution. I said that a generation ago, Fundamentalists perceived there to be three options: Creation, Theistic Evolution, and Atheistic Evolution. Nowadays “Theistic Evolution” seems to have fallen off the boards entirely, and the general stance has become more like “You agree with us, or you’re an atheist.” This is a logical falacy, but they don’t see it that way. This is a problem, of course. My overall point was to show how the situation has deteriorated intellectually in the last 30 years.

    As for myself, I believe in Theistic Evolution. That means essentially that I believe in everythign you do, I just posit a teeny little prolog in which God says “Let there be light” and then the Big Bang happens.

    • Thanks for the clarification. My point was that none of us should tolerate let alone accept tribal thinking no matter how understandable it may be. That is ‘natural’ is the excuse used by those who do (not you personally).

      I didn’t miss your point about evolution; I clarified that there is only one category in biology and that’s evolution as a fact. Any other version is not scientific but religious. You can believe that god intervened at some historical moment and literally caused something, but these are faith-based beliefs that stand contrary to and in conflict with the scientific understanding of how evolution operates… and the key term here is ‘natural’ selection and not somehow ‘guided’ or ‘manipulated’ or ‘inserted’ (including the catholic view of the insertion of a soul). These beliefs are not compatible with our understanding of evolution; they are privileged wholly and solely by religious assertion alone.

  6. The problem with many Christian conservatives is that they are long on self-righteousness and short on selflessness, long on callousness and short on compassion, long on intimidation and short on tolerance.

    If you happen to be a believer in some form of “God”, wonderful. If it happens to be a “higher being” that is not promoted in Judeo-Christian theology, this should be respected as well.
    If you are an atheist or agnostic, that is equally wonderful. All points of view should be respected, and no one should be so insecure that they feel compelled to convert, condemn, or denigrate “believers” or “non-believers”.

    Most importantly though, people who belong to any of the myriad of religions that exist in this country should observe their tenets and practice their rituals in the comfort of their homes and religious sanctuaries, and not try to impose their particular religious values and mores onto the rest of society via political lobbying or by proselytizing religious dogma in public schools.

    Furthermore, teachers and school administrators should never be encouraged or permitted to berate or insult students for their personal views on spirituality.

    Finally, religious beliefs have no place in the science curriculum. Sanctimonious, scientifically-illiterate, theocracy-minded politicians and pundits have redefined what constitutes science to fit their own point of view. Therefore, they equate real science with ‘natural phenomena under the control of God’.

    What they don’t understand is that science is not merely a body of knowledge accumulated over the centuries, it is also the process through which this knowledge is attained. And so simply declaring that something is true because it says so in the Bible (or any other literary source) cannot be construed as science if that “fact” or “idea” was not the result of a valid, structured, self-critical scientific process.

    The realm of science — with its evidence-based testable theories, evolving species, relativistic measurements, and quantum phenomena — undermines the “absolutism” that is embraced by those whose view of the universe must conform to a literal interpretation of the Bible.

    • You said “The problem with many Christian conservatives is that they are long on self-righteousness and short on selflessness, long on callousness and short on compassion, long on intimidation and short on tolerance.”

      That’s an incredibly condescending thing to say about anyone. I mean, how would you feel if I said the same exact thing about secular humanists? I’m a-gonna’ go out on a limb here and assume you’ve probably never been a Christian or a Conservative.

      I’m not mentioning this to be a jerk, I’m mentioning it to show how quickly and subtly outrage at an obviously bad thing can turn into sanctimony and condescension. “Oh no! Muslims blew up the WTC! Ergo all Muslims are not to be trusted, and are less civilized, so we can look down on them.” or “Oh no! Some whackjob Christian blew up an abortion clinic 30 years ago, so all Christians are not to be trusted, and are less civilized, so we can look down on them!” There’s really no difference there. Again: I’m not saying this to be a jerk, I’m not calling you out, I’m just saying ‘be cautious’ and remember that the news generally only reports bad things – a plane crashed – they don’t tend to report the 5000 flights that landed without incident. And since that’s all we see in the media, we tend to assume that’s the way things are in reality, when in fact it’s a statistically tiny group.

      Lemme tell you about MY fanatical Christian Fundamentalist experience: I was brought up in a loving home. One of my parents was an aerospace engineer who worked up from abject poverty. The other was a farmer who, likewise, worked up from abject poverty. One was an immigrant. I had a loving home. My folks spent as much time with me as they could. My dad was a deacon. We went to church 3x a week, more if there was something special going on like a revival. This was in the years between 1975 and 1986 or 87.

      During that time I never ONCE heard a sermon preached on politics. Yes, we were all republicans, mid-to-hard-right, but it was considered unseemly to preach politics so we never did. Made fun of the democrats in the parking lot over coffee, but never in church. We took up collections for the poor. My sunday school teacher was a WWII fighter pilot, who had a very successful airline pilot career after the war. He quit that and took a job as a missionary pilot spending years flying medical supplies and soap to abjectly poor people in Africa, and he and his wife lived in crap conditions the whole time. My buddy Carl was 90 when he died. He spent twenty years on an indian reservation in the Canadian Northwest Territory as a missionary, doing functional things like putting in plumbing and building houses and making sure people got medical treatment, and preaching. And one winter it got so cold that one of his children FROZE TO DEATH, but still he stayed on for another 10 years, until he got too old to do the work. I’ve been a missionary and I’ve worked in a soup kitchen. My girlfriend spent every summer in Mexico with Habitat for Humanity building houses for poor people. We gave food to the poor in our community, we condemned people who used violence, we visited shut-ins, we helped maintain a womens’ shelter for battered and homeless women. We provided scholarships for school. We opened up the church to be used as a shelter in really, really bad weather. We cared for each other, and we were active in the community because we cared about that too.

      Oh, yeah, and we believed that the world was only 6000 years old, and one day a year we stood along the main street in towns with signs that said “Abortion is Murder.” So I suppose those two things mean we’re bad people? Does that mean that we were long on self-righteousness and short on selflessness, long on callousness and short on compassion, long on intimidation and short on tolerance.

      No it does not.

      Now, there are obviously a lot of inherent problems with fundamentalism, we all agree about that. And fundamentalism has definitely grown more reactionary and politcal than my experiences a generation ago. But the fact remains that the overwhelming majority of Christian Evangelicals are good, decent, nice people who take Jesus’ commandments on “love” and “Forgiveness” very, very seriously, and practice it daily. They just don’t get much press because soup kitchens don’t grab as many headlines as ‘crazy radical does dumbass thing’. Think I’m wrong? How many stories have read/seen/heard about the Westboro Baptist Church in the last 5 years? How many people are actually IN the Westboro Baptist Church, do you know? Fifty or less!

      HUNDREDS of hours of news stories about a group of 50 lunatics, and there’s probably 30 to 60 million self-described Christian Fundamentalists in the US. Disproportionate reporting. Most fundamentalists are not hate-filled fag-bashing crazy people. Most are very good people. The worst you can say about them is maybe that they’re a little dim is all.

      My point being: don’t stereotype.

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