Huntington, West Virginia (AP) — Between calculus and European history classes at a public high school in West Virginia, 16-year-old Cameron Maze and her classmates go from teachers to evangelical Christian revival rallies. I have been told.
When the students arrived at the event in the school auditorium, they were instructed to close their eyes and raise their arms in prayer, Maze said. Teens were asked to give their lives to Jesus in order to find purpose and salvation. Those who did not obey the Bible were told that they would go to hell when they died.
Huntington High School Junior sent a text to his father.
“Is this legal?” He asked.
According to the US Constitution, the answer is no. In fact, separation of church and state is one of the basic beliefs of the country’s founding, says Max Nibert, senior at Huntington High School.
“It’s disappointing just to see it defamed and ignored in such a blatant way,” he said.
Nibert and other Huntington students plan to strike during their homeroom on Wednesday to protest the rally.
“I don’t think taxpayers should host any kind of religious person in a funded building with the clear purpose of convincing minors to be baptized after school,” Nibert said. I did.
According to Cabell County School spokesman Jed Flowers, the mini-revival took place during last week’s COMPASS, where students study for tests, prepare for college, and listen to guest speakers. It’s a “non-leading” daily break with a schedule that you can do.
According to Flowers, the event is voluntary and sponsored by a branch of the Christian Athletes Fellowship School. There should have been an application form for the students, but he said the two teachers accidentally brought the entire class.
“It’s a shame that it happened,” Flowers said. “We believe it will never happen again.”
But in this community of less than 50,000 people in southwestern West Virginia, the controversy ignited widespread debate about whether religious service (whether voluntary or not) should be allowed during class hours. .. A group of parents, the Associated State of the United States of America in West Virginia, and other organizations say the answer to this question is also no. They say such an event is clearly a violation of the student’s civil rights.
“It is inappropriate and unconstitutional for the school district to provide religious leaders with their own access to preach and convert students during class hours on school grounds,” promoting the separation of the church and the state. Freedom From Religion Foundation is a school district. The district says in the letter, “We cannot allow the school to be used as a recruitment site for the church.”
Last week’s rally in Huntington High was given a sermon by Nick Walker, a 25-year-old evangelical preacher from the Ministry of Nick Walker, who has led the revival in the Huntington region for more than two weeks.
During the rally, students and their families are encouraged to attend evening worship services at the nearby Christ Temple Church. More than 450 people, including 200 students, have been baptized in the church, Walker said, and he will soon go to another public school and nearby Marshall University.
Bethany Ferrington said her Jewish son was one of the students forced to attend a rally at Huntington High School. She said when he asked to leave, the teacher told him that the door to their classroom was locked and he couldn’t go. He sat down in his seat and was uncomfortable. Ferrington said he felt he couldn’t go against the teacher.
“It’s a completely unfair and unacceptable situation to include teenagers,” she said. “I’m not breaking their faith, but there is time and place for everything. In public schools, it’s not time and place during school days.”
Maze’s father, Herman Maze, agrees.
“They can’t just play this game.” This time, we’ll choose this gray area, which we believe can insert church worship, as a wiggle room, “he said.
Walker said he had never contacted the school about coming to talk. He said it was always the students who reached out to his ministry.
“You don’t even have to knock on the door,” he said. “Students want to receive hope here (Christ Temple Church) and bring hope to schools and classmates.”
Originally from a small town in Marines, West Virginia, Walker has traveled the state since hosting a church rally at school at the age of 17. He said he came to Huntington on January 23 with plans to leave three days later, but he saw the need he felt he had to deal with.
Walker said there is a lot of “despair” in the Huntington area. Students suffer from addiction, anxiety and depression.
“Looking at an area like this really shows that they need the Lord,” he said, and after a few hours of preaching, drank hot tea with honey to calm his throat. ..
Mackenzie Kassel, a freshman at Torsia High School, said Walker was excited to start talking to her and her peers. She said she attended the Christ Temple Church and she has now met more young people since Walker began working at school.
“It’s great to see a lot of young kids coming,” she said.
Cindy Cassel, the guardian of Cindy Cassel, said it was powerful to see someone make such an impression on the youth of the town.
“Children want it and are ready to change in the right direction,” she said.
Kassel attended a worship service with Walker and more than 400 others at the Christ Temple Church in Huntington on Monday night.
At the end of the worship, Walker encouraged people to come before the congregation. There, his fellow parishioners put their hands on their backs. Then they were taken to the next room, where they changed into white robes for baptism. Some came out of the water, the cloth clung to their skin, and they raised their hands high and cried.