The Rankin County, Miss., School District is facing a federal lawsuit because it allegedly sanctioned coercive proselytizing during three mandatory assemblies at Northwest Rankin High School in Flowood.
The American Humanist Association (AHA) charged that Principal Charles Frazier and other school officials required students to attend events that featured a fundamentalist Christian video, proselytizing and prayer.
According to the legal complaint in M.B. v. Rankin County School District, Frazier sent an email to all faculty on April 9 ordering them to send all members of the senior class to a school hall for the religious event.
Students were not told the subject of the assembly. When some realized it was a proselytizing event, they tried to leave but were prevented from doing so by a school truancy officer, as well as teachers and parents who were present for the preaching.
Students were shown a video that featured four young men who struggled with personal problems but found a solution in conversion to Christianity. When the video concluded, a student affiliated with the Pinelake Baptist Church told the assembled students that they must turn to Jesus Christ to find hope.
School officials are now claiming the events were student-sponsored, student-led and voluntary, but the AHA isn’t buying it.
“It is clear that these assemblies are put on by the school itself,” said William Burgess, legal coordinator of the AHA’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “They were staged in a school room, during the school day and the school sent an email to teachers telling them that students were required to attend.”