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Teachers still enjoy freedoms of religion and speech

by Amber McDown

During the October school board meeting, Chris Plants addressed the board regarding the religious freedoms of teachers in Webster Parish. 

Plants, a member of the Christian group named Men of Courage, reported that teachers were coming to him with concerns regarding their religious freedoms in their workplaces. “Teachers started coming to me saying they couldn’t put their Bibles on their desks, and they wanted to,” said Plants. 

Plants spoke passionately about his Christian views, saying: “Our God gave us the greatest commandment — to love our God with all our heart, all our mind, and all our soul. That means to worship Him all the time, and to pray for Him all the time. You can’t go into a government facility and say, ‘I’m not going to pray for Him now. I’m not going to pray for Him for these eight hours.’

“Johnny [Rowland], you’ve already told me one time today, and Robin Tucker put it online, that it was just a bad miscommunication. I hope that it is. You can have Bibles at your desk? You can have crosses around your neck? And you can pray anytime that you want?”

Superintendent Rowland replied, “That’s correct.”

Rowland continued: “They can have a Bible on their desk, they can carry a Bible as long as — and this is according to the court order — as long as there’s other things on the desk, which any teacher will have. They can wear religious-themed jewelry. And teachers can pray at school, they can pray with each other at school. Our students can pray at school. And I’ll tell you what we have seen. We have seen, out of our students — which is a miracle, see, the Lord does work through bad situations — we have seen in Webster Parish attendance increase at FCA meetings, See You at the Pole, bible study groups. We’re seeing much more participation after we were sued than before. Our students know their rights, and our students are saying, ‘We’re not going to be denied.’ Our employees are learning their rights. I need to do a better job as superintendent at giving the specifics.”

In summary, teachers’ freedom of religion and freedom of speech are not infringed upon by their workplace. The same applies for students. The only real stipulation is that any religious activities that students engage in on school property must be student led, not teacher led. 

The next school board meeting will be held on November 7 at 6 p.m. The public is welcome to attend.

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