Lawsuit claims that school kids were hectored by an evangelist
Hector (‘El Father’) Delgado, above, a reggae-artist-turned evangelical preacher, has sparked a lawsuit in Puerto Rico for targeting schools with his Christian preaching.
The lawsuit was filed because last March, four schools from the town of Arecibo invited Delgado to preach Christian mumbo-jumbo on school grounds and during school hours.
According to this report, on July 7 the Ateístas de Puerto Rico (Atheists of Puerto Rico) filed a lawsuit at the San Juan District Federal Court against the Department of Education of Puerto Rico and the Arecibo Regional Director of Education, Luis G Rodríguez Ramos.
The lawsuit relates to Delgado’ s proselytising in March, 2016. His shenanigans were sponsored by the Department of Education and the Municipality of Arecibo.
Also named in the lawsuit are the principals of the schools that hosted the events
The atheist organisation’s attorney, Miguel A Rodríguez said:
We requested, on various occasions, to be granted equal opportunity to carry out the same type of event, but from an atheist, humanist and secular point of view. Our request was ignored even though we presented it in writing several times. Because the state chose one particular religion over other beliefs, or lack of belief, they broke the law.
In the lawsuit, they request an injunction to stop all school activities of religious nature while the court case is considered, as well as punitive damages due to the gross violation of the separation of church and state. The organisation is also demanding permission to schedule events of secular nature in the same schools.
Said the spokesperson of the organisation, María Berríos.
Freedom of religion is an inalienable human right. Every human being has the freedom to choose his or her religion, to choose none, or to not validate the existence of any god, and to exercise that right and profess his or her beliefs publicly, without being oppressed or discriminated against, and without being forced into changing their beliefs. The events that took place violated the freedom of religion of the students who do not practice the Christian faith, and who were forced to attend the activities, which were held during regular class hours, and under the authority of the school that supports them.
Moreover, the schools engaging in these activities, and the mayor of Arecibo who is also supporting them, are engaging in an illegal practice, violating our Constitution, which provides the complete separation of church and state.
The secretary of the organization, Nathaniel Torres, added:
The students who do not share the same faith feel forced to listen anyway. We have received confidential information, in calls and in writing, from students who are non-believers who were required to assist at the basketball court where the religious service was being held. When they refused to participate, the teacher told them that they could not stay in the classroom by themselves and that they had to go down to the court.
We understand that the teacher represents an authority figure, and students who did not wish to participate may have felt intimidated and thus forced to participate and remain quiet. Furthermore, in the case of non-believer families, the teacher is infringing on the rights of the family to educate their children in a way not based on religious arguments.
We live in a democracy founded under secular precepts. If the Department of Education will not allow students to learn about alternative philosophies like humanism, atheism, critical thinking and scientific skepticism, then we will not allow them to bring sectarian, Christian and superstitious proselytism to the public schools of our country either.
Shirley Rivera, above, President of the organisation, added:
It’s either all or none. Besides, it is not the responsibility of public schools to teach religious beliefs, which have no scientific base, are impossible to prove, and thus contribute nothing to the intellectual development of the students, simply because religious beliefs are completely irrational.
Ateístas de Puerto Rico is a non-profit secular organization. It promotes anti-theist and anti-religious thinking as a ways to preserve religious freedom and secularism (separation of church and state). It believes that organised religion and the belief in gods has a negative effect on society, as well as on human rights. It also affirms that the goal of a secular country is to safeguard humans rights in general.
Hat tip: Elisaúl RC