Home / News / Education vs. Indoctrination — ACLU challenges overt Christian proselytizing event at SC public middle school
Education vs. Indoctrination — ACLU challenges overt Christian proselytizing event at SC public middle school

Education vs. Indoctrination — ACLU challenges overt Christian proselytizing event at SC public middle school

Rapper brages about overt proselytizing in SCThe American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) contends that the New Heights Middle School in Jefferson, South Carolina, committed a serious violation of the Constitution by holding an in-school assembly featuring B-SHOC, who is a Christian rapper, and an evangelist named Christian Chapman. B-SHOC filmed the September 1 event, which the ACLU has made available on YouTube (see the video embedded at the end of this article).

The video begins with a smiling B-SHOC who expresses his gratitude to Bridging the Gap Ministries for arranging the event:

Because of this, people in public schools are going to get to know who Jesus Christ is, and that is what I am excited about.

In the next scene, evangelist Christian Chapman is seen preaching at the students who are assembled in the school gym. "A relationship with Jesus is what you need more than anything else," he tells the students. The young men and women are then lined up and their information is taken so that they are sure to be "plugged into a church."

Chapman then went on to speak to the parents, telling them,

And so your principal looked at me and I said, "How are you getting away with this?" And he said, "I'm not." He said, "I'm tired of being a hypocrite. I'm tired of playing the game." And he said, "I want these kids to know that eternal life is real and I don't care what happens to me, they're going to hear it today." And then I got so pumped up! It was like that Braveheart moment, like "Just do something dude and I will follow you!"

[...]

And listen, whether you agree with it or disagree with it, I was preaching today and saw one of the teachers looking at me and shaking her head like, no. No, no, no. And I never get mad because they speak about evolution. I tell people all the time, if you teach evolution five days a week, nine months out of the year, then let me have 30 minutes to tell them that Jesus loves them. And I will win because the message of Christ is much deeper, better, stronger and more powerful.

The video concludes with an excited B-SHOC who brags:

324 kids at this school have made a decision for Jesus Christ (applause). I don't know if it gets any better than that. We're in a public school, and we did a show for the 6th grade, the 7th grade, and the 8th grade.

The ACLU reports that the school district may be planning to hold similar rallies at other schools.

The ACLU believes that religious education should be done by families and religious communities, not public schools.  The ACLU has a current online pledge, Public Schools Should Educate, Not Indoctrinate.

Afternoon update …

Several hours after it was displayed, the ACLU removed the video depicting B-SHOC and evangelist Christian Chapman. However, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has made the video available on YouTube (embedded at the end of this page). On September 19, FFRF wrote to the school about this and other religious activities taking place. From FFRF's news release, which includes images of religiously-themed play money referred  to in the news release:

Several flagrant and serious legal violations at New Heights Middle School in Jefferson, S.C., are documented in the Freedom From Religion Foundation's Sept. 19 letter of complaint to Superintendent John Williams of the Chesterfield County School District. FFRF has received reports from multiple local complainants about religious activities at the school.

The violations include a Sept. 1 school assembly featuring Christian Chapman, a preacher and evangelist, and Christian rap artist B-SHOC, who says on his YouTube channel that "324 students got saved" at the assembly. (Editor's Note – B-SHOC has removed his video, but it was preserved by FFRC before its removal.)

FFRF Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert notes that the assembly was promoted and described as a "worship rally" on the public school's website. The video also shows:

• Volunteers being trained by Pastor David Sanders. He tells them, “When it’s time for them to go to their next class, they gotta go, so you need to make sure you’re very brief, what decision did you make? Have prayer with them."
• Christian Chapman telling the students, “A relationship with Jesus is what you need more importantly than anything else.”
• Students lining up and volunteers praying with them and taking further information from the students and “[made] sure [they] were plugged into a church.”

Evidently, Principal Larry Stinson was aware of the questionable legality of holding a “worship rally” like this one during the school day, but he chose to schedule it anyway. He allegedly told Chapman that “I want these kids to know eternal life is real and I don’t care what happens to me, they’re gonna hear it today.” (at 3:58 in the B-SHOC video).

"Our complainants inform us that various pamphlets, cards and other written materials were handed out to the students," Markert noted. "In particular, fake money with proselytizing language was distributed by the assembly organizers to the students." A "million-dollar bill" asks, “THE MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION: WILL YOU GO TO HEAVEN WHEN YOU DIE? HERE’S A QUICK TEST. HAVE YOU EVER TOLD A LIE, STOLEN ANYTHING, OR USED GOD’S NAME IN VAIN? . . ."

The school's website also says "Connect with Christian Chapman and B-SHOC" and links to their religious sites.

"It is deeply troubling that Chesterfield County School District would allow this 'assembly' to take place. It is well settled that public schools may not advance or promote religion," Markert wrote. "The overtly religious and proselytizing nature of the program was explicit and known to the school’s administration before the program was scheduled. In fact, precisely because it was an evangelizing event, Principal Stinson scheduled it so that his students would 'know eternal life' and devote and recommit their lives to Christ.

9/11 memorial crosses

FFRF's letter also notes the Christian crosses erected on the school lawn for the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The photo accompanying this press release was taken by a complainant Sept. 14.

"Courts have continually held that school districts may not display religious messages or iconography in public schools," Markert wrote, citing specific legal precedent. "No court of final resort has ever upheld the government’s display of a Latin cross on public land as constitutional. The inherent religious significance of the Latin cross is undeniable and is not disguisable. No secular purpose, including memorializing a national tragedy, no matter how sincere, will detract from the overall message that the Latin cross stands for Christianity and the overall display promotes Christianity."

While it's laudable and appropriate for school officials and students to remember the victims of 9/11, it is wholly inappropriate for them to do so by erecting Christian religious symbols, Markert wrote, noting that the nearly 3,000 victims included "an international community of persons of diverse beliefs and nonbeliefs, or whose views on religion will never be known."

See You at the Pole event

A See You at the Pole prayer event to be held on school grounds Sept. 28 should not be advertised on the school's website, FFRF asserted in the letter. (Apparently the school removed it after receiving an email from Markert, but the cached page is here. will be held on school grounds next week Wednesday, September 28th. The announcement said, “Join us for See You At The Pole on Wednesday, September 28, at 7:30am. We will meet at the rear entrance of the building. Everyone welcome!”

There was no indication of the actual sponsor of SYATP on the posting on the school’s website. New Heights Middle School also created an “event” on the school’s Facebook page for the prayer rally.

Periodic SYATP events are ostensibly “student-initiated” and “student-run,” but from all appearances, it appeared the Sept. 28 event was a school-sponsored event.

"We understand that public schools cannot exclude student religious groups from meeting on school property before or after-school hours," Markert noted. "Nevertheless, it is inappropriate for teachers, other public school employees or outside adults to actively organize, participate in or promote these student-run religious organizations."

FFRF asks that the district commence an immediate investigation into the circumstances surrounding the decision to allow the Sept. 1 prayer rally. "The alleged statements by Principal Stinson call into question his ability to head a secular public school. He is abusing his public office to promote his private religious agenda. Moreover, schools in your district must be instructed that such rallies cannot be scheduled in the future, and any current plans to have Christian Chapman, B-SHOC or any other Christian group intending to missionize a captive group of young students through these 'assemblies' must be canceled immediately."

FFRF also asks the district to remove any religious imagery, including Christian crosses, from public property and to refrain from school sponsorship of student See You at the Pole events.

About D. Beeksma

One of the growing crowd of American "nones" herself, Deborah is a prolific writer who finds religion, spirituality and the impact of belief (and non-belief) on culture inspiring, fascinating and at times, disturbing. She hosts the God Discussion show and handles the site's technical work. Her education and background is in business, ecommerce and law.
  • Jason

    Thats messed up. Also, I guess it was more tax payer dollars spent on the fire department to come out over their smoke show that should not have even been happening in a public school. The should be sent a bill from the fire department for the expense.

    • http://www.goddiscussion.com admin

      Great point, Jason.

      Deborah

  • Will

    Ok, look. Our country was founded as a nation "under God". Just saying. And about the freedom of religion, who says you can just call Christianity a "smoke show" anyways? And besides, if people wanted to hold any other religious events for an entirely different religion, I'm sure the principal would have allowed it. I mean, kids can be exposed to different religions and decide for themselves what to think about it.

    • http://www.goddiscussion.com admin

      Will, nobody is calling Christianity a smoke show. Watch the video and you will know what is being discussed.

      The visual smoke effects from the B-SHOC concert set off the fire alarms, resulting in the students having to evacuate and the fire department having to come.

      According to the preacher in the video, the principal was actively engaged in having this particular presentation at the school, and he allegedly said that he didn't care what happened to him, indicating that he knew he was breaking the law, because he wanted the students to believe in eternal life.

      Christian, Hindu, Secular, Islamic, Mormon, Jew or any other type of group event is perfectly legal and constitutional if it is initiated by students as a student activity. In this case, it appears that it was initiated and promoted by the school administration, thus violating the First Amendment.

      The Declaration of Independence references "nature's god," but does not declare the nation as being "under God." Additionally, the word "God" appears nowhere in the Constitution, and neither does Christ. While there was some coinage with the words "In God We Trust," it did not become widespread until the 1950s during the Cold War. Similarly, the Pledge of Allegiance did not contain the phrase "one nation under God" until the 1950s.

      Deborah

      • cindy

        the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE says 'ONE NATION UNDER GOD…'…..tell me why people are afraid to stand up to these people whose spirits are dead and lost, stand up to the people being used by the one who would love to see destruction on earth….stand up for Jesus Christ the same way He carried that cross up the hill and allowed himself to be crucified on it….the Bible says 'if you deny me in front of men….I will not know you'…..I'll say this, I wont be one of the ones He turns his back on, I will continue to praise God, to bring the message of salvation to a world that is in terrible need of it…..those who are afraid, those who wont stand up for Jesus, you better get your heart right, you better make the changes you need to make for eternal salvation before you dont have any more time left to do it. God loves you, He gave His Son for you……how can you not love Him?? God will continue to bless Christian Chapman, and the principal at that school, for doing the right thing, and for bring those kids to Jesus. AMEN to you both!

    • Derrik

      @Will:

      This "under God" nonsense was *not* in the Constitution (seriously, go look – the only reference to religion of *any kind* in the Constitution says *there will be no religious test for any public office).

      The only one in the Bill of Rights was in the First Amendment, which wisely said "The Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" – and this has been interpreted as no agent of the government is to support or oppose any religion in their position.

      The Treaty of Tripoli (which passed the legislature unanimously, and was signed into law by one President John Adams), said that "the United States of America are in no way founded on the Christian religion".

      Precisely where do you get this idea that the Founding Fathers meant for everyone to be Christian? Because if you knew what the Founding Fathers meant, you'd know that they would be horrified by this, not pleased – they came from one theocracy, they didn't want another.

  • Rich Wilson

    "HAVE YOU EVER TOLD A LIE, STOLEN ANYTHING, OR
    USED GOD’S NAME IN VAIN?"

    Or worked on a Sunday?

    A lot of the content has been scrubbed from the school and district website. But it's kind of interesting that the district's non-discrimination hiring statement doesn't include 'religion' (or sexual orientation).

    http://www.chesterfield.k12.sc.us/jobs.htm

    "The Chesterfield County School District is committed to a policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of age, handicap,
    national origin, race or sex in its educational programs, activities or employment practices."

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