The Freedom From Religion Foundation and White Oak ISD

Recently, I have been contacted by two concerned residents of White Oak ISD and legal counsel from the Freedom From Religion Foundation concerning the use of scripture in the “Thought for the Day” at the high school.

The residents were offended at the use of scripture, demanding that it be stopped and calling for disciplinary action against Mr. Noll. I am fully aware of the practice at the high school and will not pursue any action against our High School Principal or any other member of our faculty/staff concerning this issue.

The letter from the FFRF is not the first received by the district. They contacted us in the fall with concerns about the practices at our football games. I have responded in  accordance with their stated concerns and we have moved on.

Let me be clear, this is an attempt to draw us into a contest of words for the sole purpose of giving the FFRF a large amount of free press/recognition that they and their very few members (1,200 in Texas) do not deserve. This group and others like it, are wanting us to provide them with negative quotes to use in the promotion of their agenda. We can and will make the adjustments needed to ensure our students experience a morally sound, positive character based education. There are a multitude of options to provide our students, faculty and staff the opportunity to express their First Amendment Rights as provided for in the United States Constitution. Let me also be clear that we have not (in my opinion) violated anyone’s rights and/or subjected anyone to undue stress. Bible studies and scriptures are allowed in schools. The requirement is that the material be presented in a neutral manner. It is my position that we met that standard with the morning announcements.

My recommended response to the FFRF is, “I’m sorry you feel that way. I will be praying for you and your staff daily.”

Finally, as a Christian Brother, it will not promote the values we hold so dear to assail those that disagree with the Gospel. We will state our case. We will make sure our rights are just as protected as anyone else that lives in this great country. We will continue to provide for all the needs of our students and we will do so while traveling the High Road. Don’t get drawn into a game of words that has no “winner”.

Please do not waste your time and effort on these few detractors.

Michael E. Gilbert
Superintendent of Schools
White Oak ISD

81 thoughts on “The Freedom From Religion Foundation and White Oak ISD

  1. To everyone who understands why this is a bad thing and should be stopped:

    “In that case,” said Napoleon, “let us wait twenty minutes; when the enemy is making a false movement we must take good care not to interrupt him.”

    After all, it’s not like this public response won’t end up in the inevitable lawsuit.

  2. How many times have your students heard verses from the Koran, the Book of Mormon, or the sacred texts of the Hindus? You are doing nothing more than elevating one religion over another and causing undue grief. Are you willing to spend the taxpayers money to fight a lawsuit? You might ask them first….

  3. “…this is an attempt to draw us into a contest of words for the sole purpose of giving the FFRF a large amount of free press/recognition…”

    Superintendent Gilbert, you are being very silly. If your principal would abide by the constitution of this land, and NOT proselytize to his students and staff, then there’d be no reason to get FFRF involved! No “free press/recognition” for them!

    And are Christian bible verses “neutral”? How’d you like a Muslim on the PA reading from the Koran? Is that “neutral”?

    Silly, silly.

  4. I cannot believe that in the year 2015, this stuff still goes on in public schools. This is not a “war of words” from “detractors”. This is “illegal”. Even though the shrinking Christian majority is the main religion, there are an ever increasing number of non-Christians that pay taxes just like everyone else. The constitution is clear, the government will not favor one religion over another, or lack there of. It’s a shame that the local citizens will have to foot the bill for this blatant disregard for the law. Keep religion out of public schools, and we will keep education out your churches.

  5. This blog post should have been titled, “I’m Dumb and Would Like to Get My District Sued and Lose My Job”.

    I guess that is a bit wordy.

  6. I am going to love seeing your district pay hundreds of thousands of dollars out in this lawsuit. You are an exceptionally stupid human being.

  7. So I guess it’s okay to break the law as long as you are in the majority? That’s good to know. Wait, I thought Christians were the “persecuted” ones. Man, this is so confusing.

  8. You call it the FFRF’s “agenda”. No, it’s called the LAW! Maybe you should brush up on it. If you refuse to or ignore it then you are unfit for your position and should be removed immediately.

  9. “Let me also be clear that we have not (in my opinion) violated anyone’s rights and/or subjected anyone to undue stress. ”

    unfortunately for you, it’s not YOUR opinion that counts. You will lose the inevitable lawsuit which will provide even more positive press for FFRF and negative press for your school district.

    Be wise and stop these unconstitutional practices. You ARE hurting people in YOUR district.

  10. The Superintendent and Principal may obtain jobs with a private religious school if their beliefs outweigh their responsibilities within a secular, publicly funded institution. But if they wish to continue getting paid by the public money, they must abide by the separation of church and state. I heartily encourage these folks to resign from public education and pursue their devotional obligations in a private setting.

  11. “Bible studies and scriptures are allowed in schools. The requirement is that the material be presented in a neutral manner.”

    ‘This is what a group of people believe’ – is allowed.
    ‘This is what you should believe’ – is not allowed.

    The laws are very clear on this.

    It’s really not that hard to figure out that preaching to your students while they are REQUIRED BY THE STATE to be there is crossing a constitutional line.

    You should be held personally liable for the costs of the lawsuit you will most definitely lose. I’m sure your insurance company wont cover it once they find out you’ve deliberately ignored and violated the law.

  12. On a previous bog you wrote “Poverty is the true enemy of education”.
    This is very true, so why subject the residents of your school district to increased taxes to cover the six figures you will lose defending an illegal practice?

  13. as an atheist in Texas, we DO exist, but many stay hidden because of fear of persecution (or whatever reason they may have)…not that it matters, because a majority does not have any bearing on facts, nor do your “opinions,” your “opinion” of the law has no bearing on legality. proselytizing, preaching, reading from only one sacred tome in a PUBLIC SCHOOL is illegal, plain and simple.

    oh, and the ONLY “agenda FRFF has is to ensure the law is followed, protecting ALL from majority religions.

    if you think that is an agenda, and what you are doing isn’t, i would be happy to read daily announcements with teachings from every religion i can think of, Paganism, Satanism, Hindu, Buddhist, Canaanite, Islam, etc. there are so many religions out there….i could do this daily for years. that, or dont read any religious stuff, either choice is a viable option….but not what is happening in your district, since putting one religion over the rest is illegal.

    you might want to read up on this a bit before espousing your “opinions” on law, when you clearly have no right to have one.

  14. so let me get this straight, you are forcing non Christian kids to listen to bible verses on a daily basis, are you then ok with them hearing verses from the Koran for those kids that are muslim? anti-theist logic for non-believers? If not, you are a hypocrite, and frankly either way, you are a criminal.

  15. I don’t know what kind of educator intentionally provokes a valid lawsuit over an issue he will clearly lose on, all the while spending thousands of dollars on attorney’s fees that could be spend on improving the educational lot of your students. You are NOT a dedicated educator. You are a petty self-righteous jerk and you will lose your job in the end over this. We all hope you do anyway. If you want to preach go start your own church.

  16. I think I’ll contact the Satanists, ask if they can come over to the school each a.m. and read from “The Satantic Bible”, see if that’s ok as well. I’m sure they’d be glad to do it. They ALWAYS are.

  17. Superintendent Gilbert,
    Since it appears you feel that scripture trumps the laws of the United States, let me give you something to chew on. Romans 13 reads as follows:

    “1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”

    Thus, by disobeying the law, you are disobeying the commands of your god. Did you even consult a lawyer on this matter to ensure that you are acting in accordance with the law? If you did not (which I am almost positive is the case), I would urge you to do so. If you have, I would recommend that you get a 2nd opinion. You are treading on ground that other schools have tread and which has, every single time, led to either a settlement out of court in favor of the FFRF, or a lawsuit ending in favor of the FFRF. You *will* end up costing your district money. And it will not be supported by scripture, as I have pointed out above.

  18. Hmmm…It’s seems that yourself and Mr. Noll are not a good fit in as secular, public school system…If y’all feel the need to proselytize, you would be better suited to a school that is in line with your faith…I for one do not send my children to a secular public school only to have someone else’s religion shoved down their throats, and do not appreciate my heard earned tax dollars supporting your fairytale, man in the sky, religion..Please resign and take your bible with you…

  19. Since it seems like you’re set on continuing this, I’m wondering if you accept requests for your “Thought for the Day”? Me personally, I’ve always gotten a kick out of Ezekiel 23:20

    “There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses.”

    I’m sure a few of the students will be put in a good mood after they hear that first thing in the morning and putting the students in a good mood by using scripture is what you’re attempting to do.

  20. > Let me be clear, this is an attempt to draw us into a contest of words for the sole purpose of giving the FFRF a large amount of free press/recognition that they and their very few members (1,200 in Texas) do not deserve.

    I’m offended that you won’t even give atheists in this country the courtesy of assuming that we are sincere in our beliefs and our concerns. It’s exactly this sort of unreasoning hostility toward religious minorities that makes the work of the FFRF so vital.

    > The requirement is that the material be presented in a neutral manner.

    This is not the requirement. You were misinformed. The requirement is that religion may not be presented in such a way as to give the appearance of endorsing religion. Having the principal read Bible verses over the intercom at the start of each day is as blatant a constitutional violation as could be imagined.

    > My recommended response to the FFRF is, “I’m sorry you feel that way. I will be praying for you and your staff daily.”

    Offering to pray for atheists rather than address their legitimate concerns is extremely offensive and passive aggressive. Instead your response should be to ensure that no child is subjected to coercive proselytizing at a taxpayer-funded institution. That you are so adamant about continuing to abuse your position of authority over helpless children speaks very poorly of both the moral value of your religion and your personal moral character.

  21. I ca can’t believe someone who is a superintendent and is supposed to be pretty educated would spout off this drivel. What that principal is doing is ILLEGAL. This is not about publicity, it is about alienating your students who may not be christians. Just because you are the majority doesn’t mean you get to stomp on the rights of the minority.

  22. Superintendent:

    Rethink your position if you value your job, considering you are violating a federal decision, Abington School District v. Schempp (1963) and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. This decision which forbade any public servant within a school to evangelize or to minister while on the public’s time. Being a public servant and evangelizing; is asinine and I certainly hope you get you so righteously deserve.

  23. “My recommended response to the FFRF is, ‘I’m sorry you feel that way. I will be praying for you and your staff daily.'”

    Allow me to retort. I’m sorry you’re so disoriented by religious zeal that you can’t understand you’re paid by taxpayers to oversee the education of children in your schools, not to proselytize. I’ll be praying daily that you and Dan Noll will soon find more suitable work and that those children will never again be forced to endure state-sponsored religious indoctrination.

    Does that sound condescending? It should. It feels different when the shoe’s on the other foot, doesn’t it?

  24. Let us be very clear here:
    If you have violated just one person’s rights then you are discriminatory. You have forced your religious belief system upon another person; let us be very clear – you have violated my rights, and I, read again, “I” decide what violates my rights – you do not!
    Let us be clear, this is not a semantical debate or a contest of words. By allowing religion to be arbitrarily regulated as you have done means that you, as a public official under the United
    States Constitution, have made a law concerning religion.
    That in itself is enough for you to retract the evangelising at the school.

  25. The days of Christians who think they can push everyone else around are over. Without all of the power and influence they once enjoyed, they are circling the drain, and these desperate attempts to hold on, thinking they can bully non-Christians are just the pathetic death throes of a dying breed. It’s laughable. Too bad it involves kids who cannot stand up for themselves. Shame on you.

  26. Can we suggest verses to read, maybe? I’m thinking Ezekiel 23:20 (obviously), Numbers 22:21, Judges 5:29-30.

    Yep, those are all in your bible. Have fun.

  27. What you are doing is unacceptable. It’s illegal and imoral. You have a resposibility to obey the law. Stop proselytizing to children during school. Save it for church.

  28. I’ve already warned my principal and teachers about preaching to my kids or teaching “intelligent” design. I warned them to their faces. I’m a PTA volunteer and watch them like a hawk. I recommend others do the same.

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