Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

MERCER COUNTY SCHOOLS ; Woman Sues over Bible Classes; Lawsuit Alleges Bible in the Schools Program Active in 19 Schools

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

MERCER COUNTY SCHOOLS ; Woman Sues over Bible Classes; Lawsuit Alleges Bible in the Schools Program Active in 19 Schools

Article excerpt

The Freedom From Religion Foundation and a member of the Wisconsin-based nonprofit who's a parent of a student at a public Mercer County elementary school filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday seeking to declare unconstitutional a Bible classes program in Mercer's public school system. The lawsuit - filed against the Mercer school board and Mercer schools Superintendent Deborah Akers in the Bluefield Division of the federal court system's Southern District of West Virginia - alleges the "Bible in the Schools program is active in 15 elementary schools, one intermediate school and three middle schools, serving about 4,000 students.

The lawsuit alleges the classes are held for half an hour a week in elementary schools and 45 minutes a week in middle schools, during the regular school day. While the lawsuit states that the school system calls the classes "voluntary, it alleges that the "overwhelming majority of students participate and that "upon information and belief, students at many schools have not been receiving alternative instruction.

"Mercer County Schools provides written lessons to all itinerant Bible teachers, the lawsuit states. "Per Mercer County Schools policy, these lessons must be followed as given except for small wording changes and content revisions that have been approved at least two weeks before the lesson is taught.

The lawsuit alleges the Bible classes include "Creationism instruction that involves "having students imagine that human beings and dinosaurs existed at the same time. It quotes one lesson as saying "So picture Adam being able to crawl up on the back of dinosaur! He and Eve could have their own personal water slide! Wouldn't that be so wild!

The parent, only identified as "Jane Doe, said in the lawsuit that she's an atheist who is suing individually and on behalf of her daughter, called "Jamie Doe in the document. Jane Doe said in the document that she wishes to raise Jamie Doe, who is in kindergarten, "without religion.

The lawsuit says Jane Doe wishes for her daughter, when she enters the first grade, to not have to participate and also to not "be ostracized by other students or staff for not participating.

"Jamie will either be forced to attend Bible indoctrination classes against the wishes and conscience of Jane Doe, or Jamie will be the only or one of only a few children who do not participate, the lawsuit says. "Jamie will therefore be made conspicuous by absence, and essentially be identified as a non-Christian or nonbeliever, subjecting Jamie to the risk of ostracism from peers and even school staff. …

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