Buddhist sixth grader allegedly told to “change his religion” by Louisiana public school officials.
Suppose you were a Buddhist parent in America and your sixth grader told you his public school teacher was teaching that evolution was false, “the universe was created by God about 6,000 years ago” and called your family’s religious beliefs “stupid” in front of the whole class because you wrote in something other than “Lord” for this test question: “ISN’T IT AMAZING WHAT THE ________ HAS MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
You might object and expect the teacher to be reprimanded and her curriculum, and perhaps career, undergo serious review. But not at Negreet High School in Sabine Parish, Louisiana, where this exact scenario happened to Asian Buddhist parents, according to Raw Story.
“When the outraged parents confronted Sabine Parish Superintendent Sara Ebarb about the incidents, she allegedly told them ‘this is the Bible belt’ and that they ‘shouldn’t be offended’ to ‘see God here.’ Ebarb advised that [their son] C.C. should either change his faith or be transferred to another District school where ‘there are more Asians.’”
The American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU Louisiana jointly filed suit yesterday against the school and parish on behalf of C.C.’s parents. Read all the details here.
Update: Click here to read the statement by C.C.’s father, Scott Lane, at the ACLU site.
Tim in Montreal says
Change takes time… The flower wants to bloom and open, but it takes time. May all differences be seen with a love of life's diversity.
Dukkha Earl says
True that. But sometimes you just gotta sue the shit out of them!
Scary isn't it how closed minded people are. The only way to deal with them is to take them to court.
It seems like the invitation here is to become outraged at the ignorance and bigotry of this teacher. But that's the easy shot. No question it's correct for these parents to confront this racial and religious intolerance. But really, on the Shambhala Sun website, could we possibly view this as an opportunity for us, as observers, to practice a little compassion for everyone involved in this conflict?
A perfect opportunity to practice Metta for everyone involved. Just Metta, without trying to change anyone. Just Metta.
Yes, always …and yet we are responsible to both Wisdom and Method. The Buddha was implored to teach, and thus he rejoined us, for so many years. –We can endeavor to practice Metta fully while also trying to enter into these situations as skillfully as we can.
Please see the reply to Scott below.
I hear banjos…
Enlightenment is not peaceful. It is radical, at times violent and always requires pain. Too many Buddhist, in my opinion dismiss things and make comments about flowers, blooming, love and diversity and just meta which actually is more of the easy way out than taking a realistic approach to an issue. I agree about practicing compassion for all. However, if Shambala hadn't put this on their web page I doubt many would have this opportunity to practice compassion.
Metta is not the easy way out. It can be a challenging practice to actually make real. Try it with anyone you're having difficulties with.
The reason for saying "Just metta" in response to the above article is because none of us are directly involved and therefore will likely not be able to take direct action in this particular case. When wisdom sees there's no action to take, what can be effectively done is Metta.
Carol Oppenheimer says
the bible belt is filled with the most un-Christian people you could ever meet. I lived in Tulsa Oklahoma in 1975. My husband is Jewish and OMG I never seen such ignorance in people. He was often told "I never saw a real live jew before", he was going to hell because he didn't accept Jesus as his savior. It was incredible in this day and age that people are sooo damn stupid. I was denied a job because I was a "Yankee" and that is what the person interviewing me told me. He also in my interview asked me if I liked the "Kennedy's". I told him yes. I didn't get the job. Was so happy when I moved from there—altho I met a lot of nice people—the majority of those hicks were stupid !!!!!
I have friends on Facebook of both Liberal and Conservative persuasion. The amount of bombast hurled by both sides at each other is incredible. It is if there are many parallel versions of this country (and likely the whole world, if not the universe) that overlay each other and connect at various intersections, but come from such disparate realities as to make one roll one's eyes in amazement that we are indeed on the same planet. Yet each observer from their reality thinks that theirs is the correct (if not the only valid) version. There is a security in having other people think for you, give you the answers, and so on. The tragedy of that is when you encounter another paradigm equally valid – do you accept it, enlarging your own experience, deny it and try to impose your own view, or stand there with a deer-in-the-headlights look and not know what to do?
I have a different take on this story.
1. The ACLU is known as a left-wing organization that has always come down on the side of championing fundamental changes to America, including radically different interpretations of the Bill of Rights. It's important to know that going in because everything that follows may be tainted by the primary point.
2. I was not present to witness for myself what the father alleges the teacher said. Nor was I privy to the alleged examples of his son throwing up due to stress from "bullying." I cannot verify any of the facts alleged. So my comments here are as meaningless as everyone else's.
3. Many of the comments here are shameful, automatically siding with the plaintiff and eviscerating Christians, the Bible belt, and America. A few commenters seem to understand the Buddha's message, which I find heartening. But the knee-jerk reaction of many posts indicates unresolved anger that clouds judgment.
4. Even if the teacher was a total turd and overstepped her bounds (as alleged by the complaint), this is not indicative of a widespread problem with Christians, nor of a problem of a separation of church and state. All it indicates is that one teacher overstepped her bounds. No more, no less.
5. I'm always amazed by these ACLU lawsuits. They are often taken up by one person who complains about a long-established tradition. In this case, look at where the complaint occurred: In a parish in Louisiana, a state seemingly built by Catholicism with areas of government still named after church membership ("parish" rather than "county"). In short, one could expect people in those areas to be gung-ho for Christianity. Setting aside the possibility that the teacher overstepped her bounds, for someone to complain about that would be akin to a parent suing a teacher who espoused vegetarianism in a predominately liberal state teeming with vegetarians. Or, to think of it another way, it would be like a Christian going to a Muslim country and suing school teachers for espousing Islam.
6. One of the father's paragraphs contained the ultimate irony that I believe is often overlooked in these situations: "Forcing your beliefs on another is not freedom; it is oppression." What, other than that, is happening here? The ACLU is suing to change what the vast majority of others believe and have accepted/embraced for generations. In short, it is a single person, or, in this case, a single family, forcing their own beliefs on the vast majority – pissing people off and likely to cause tremendous divisions in the process as people choose up sides.
7. I am NOT condoning the behavior of the teacher. Not by any stretch. If there was wrongdoing, the teacher should be relieved of her post – or seriously reprimanded. However, I am pointing out that there are two sides to all of these lawsuits. And an immediate knee-jerk reaction blaming Christians is hardly wise or skillful.
8. This situation – as well as similar ones that have arisen nationwide over the past three or four decades – seems akin to what happened to Native Americans. They had their own religion and ways of doing things. A few people came from Europe and wanted to fundamentally change what was happening. The beef of the Europeans was that the Native Americans practiced a religion that was wrong. So they told the Native Americans (who held the predominant belief structure) to take a hike. They forced a change – sometimes at gun- or knife-point. People are still outraged by that. Yet, how is that different from what's happening across America today?
9. What do we as Buddhists indicate to the world if we demand others change their beliefs to accommodate ours? How are we any different, any more accepting, any more calm and rational, even reasonable, than those with whom we may disagree, whom we claim oppress us?
10. The phrase "separation of church and state" does not appear in the Constitution. It was not part of the debates that created the Bill of Rights. That phrase appeared many years later in a letter from Thomas Jefferson to, if I recall correctly, a pastor of a particular denomination. The phrase has since been used as a rallying cry to change the fabric of America, to alter this country in ways I do not believe would have been applauded or approved of by our Founding Fathers.
Bottom line: America is entirely too lawsuit happy, contentious, and divisive. Even Buddhists – who might have learned along the way not to "make something," or to create opposites – seem prone to dig in our heels and let fly to get what's ours.
This whole situation makes me sad. I am not happy for the parish school that will have to change what it's been doing. I am not happy for the family that feels unwelcome. I am not happy thinking of the anger and resentment likely to follow in the wake of both.
This is a lose-lose situation, brothers and sisters. How can we take any consolation in that?