School Prayer Protest in Scott County Virginia
Compiled by Lewis Loflin
"I had a vision at church Sunday night, and I felt God was showing me something like a demonstration. I told God that I would do this, just give me the people. We went to the flagpole, I read from Matthew, Chapter 14, Verse 1, and then we prayed. We walked to a picnic table, had a moment of silence when the bell rang, and our demonstration began."
"I feel that our rights are not being respected."
"We did this for God"
"We feel that you should be allowed to speak or pray in what you believe in even while you are at school without the fear of getting in trouble or someone threatening you."
This according to several students as reported in the Kingsport Time-News on March 15, 2001. Ten students were hauled off to the Scott County jail for disorderly conduct and disrupting school.
Nothing really happened, they went before a judge, had to write an essay or whatever. The real story is God never told them anything, one child had a personal gripe with the school principal and pulled this stunt to get back.
I won't say who but it turns out one of these children is related to me via marriage and his mother admitted the truth that this was over a personal gripe with school officials.
Note: Mike Jenkins is a Gate City-based youth evangelist and an advocate for prayer in public schools while Joel Jenkins is the youth pastor of the First Baptist Church in Gate City, Virginia. Mike Jenkins and Joel Jenkins are not related. Both run outreach programs for kids and seem to do a lot of good work. Both seem to have the best interests of the kids at heart.
In February 7, 2000 Mike had this to say in the Kingsport Time-News in regards to a mandatory prayer bill in the Virginia legislature:
"It is a great first step, especially coming out of Richmond, to establishing something very important to our public schools and that is prayer," Jenkins said. "That is what our country was founded on. I deal with students from all across this nation and I find a high percentage who pray have far less problems than the ones who don't."
There he will see that this country we live in was founded on God and on Christianity," "(We) will begin conversations among the students about their faith in God. Students who came from broken homes or had other problems dealing with their heart and mind were astoundingly effected by prayer. ... I'm not making this stuff up, I've seen it with my own eyes.
No Mike, it wasn't founded on prayer and certainly not the Calvinist tyranny but the courage of Enlightened Christians and non-Christians alike longing for freedom. Christians often love to say how Christians came to America for religious freedom, yet won't discuss the fact these same people were fleeing fellow Christians.
Worse, many are prepared to impose their particular faith on others. Religious freedom isn't the freedom to force others to believe in YOUR faith. I'm sure Mike means well, but the fact remains he and others intend to target other students.
The SBC for example doesn't consider Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and many others as even being Christians. The SBC has also been criticized for singling out Hindus, Muslims, and Jews. This is not a matter of helping children, it's all about converts to their church and often intolerance of other faiths.
The attempts to force mandatory prayer into the Virginia school system didn't turn out the way local evangelists hoped it would. The word "prayer" would be removed over Constitutional issues and nobody was allowed to say or do anything to anyone. An unhappy Jenkins attacked the Virginia ACLU. This in the July 29, 2000 Kingsport Time-News put it perspective:
Mike Jenkins, who operates a nationwide youth ministry in Gate City and is the organizer of Scott County's Fellowship of Christian Athletes, says the ACLU lawsuit is another attempt to force its ways over personal choice. "During that minute of silence at the beginning of the school day, a student can pray to whomever they want, or they can use that time to reflect," Jenkins said.
"That should not try to deny those students who are Christians the right to pray. I am totally for the law 100 percent and it is not just adults who are in favor of this. Young adults want this privilege. "Anything we can do to get prayer back in school we should encourage, with all of the shooting and other disruptions our young people are having to deal with these days. Jesus Christ is the answer and taking that away would discriminate against Christians."
Who is keeping anyone from Jesus? Nobody denies any child the right to pray. Scott County has more churches than jobs. This troubling pattern of claiming unfounded persecution, an endless obsession with Armageddon, and claims of divine revelation such as these children are claiming is symptomatic of cult behavior.
Being a cult has nothing to do with any particular religious belief as much as social structure and outlook. For example, the Branch Divideans is one such cult that branched off of the Seventh Day Adventists, who began as a 19th century cult known as the Millerites.
But as the school prayer rhetoric ran hot and heavy from all sides, some children would take matters in their own hands.
Events in Scott County
But on March 13, 2001 this was said in the Kingsport Time-News,
Joel Jenkins, youth pastor at the First Baptist Church of Gate City, said Tuesday evening that members of the 10-person protest group had indicated to him during the school's organized prayer group session Monday morning that they planned to stage "some sort of protest" on Tuesday.
"I was unaware of what they planned to do. I tried to counsel them as best I could biblically, but I never thought they would go this avenue,'' said Jenkins. "Some of the kids involved in this didn't even know each other until this happened this morning. I totally support the kids being obedient in what God is telling them to do, but I also tell them that they must stay within the guidelines given to them.
In an interview with the students involved, the Kingsport Time-News on March 15, 2000 had this to say:
by KEVIN CASTLE
GATE CITY - The students were forewarned. They knew the consequences they faced for the stance they took. But each of the students said they would probably do it again. (Warned by who? Who knew in advance?)
Three Gate City Middle School students were interviewed by the Times-News Thursday, two days after they and seven other students were arrested on the school grounds for refusing to go to class after staging a demonstration about prayer in school. A 15-year-old male student said he and his classmates considered every result before deciding to stay on the front lawn of the school after the first bell rang Tuesday at 8:30 a.m.
"The reason we were out there is to get religion back in school - mainly Christianity. (No kidding) We had a Jewish student out there, a Catholic student there, just people from all religions. (Comment: another lie.) We didn't do this just to miss class. We didn't do this just to get attention or publicity. We did this for God," he said. (Comment: that's not what one of their mothers told me. They knew it in advance.)
"I had a vision at church Sunday night, and I felt God was showing me something like a demonstration. I told God that I would do this, just give me the people. We went to the flagpole, I read from Matthew, Chapter 14, Verse 1, and then we prayed. We walked to a picnic table, had a moment of silence when the bell rang, and our demonstration began.
"We sang. We prayed constantly. I don't think we were ever disruptive. After Gate City High School principal Mike Brickey came out, two of the kids and my sister went back in because they did not want to get in trouble, but we stood firm. The officers came, we joined hands and sang 'Praise God' and recited the Lord's Prayer four or five times. Then that was it. They took us away."
Gate City Middle School principal Dexter Egan said Tuesday that he and Brickey instructed the students to return to class, but they did not respond to their instruction, and the necessary action was taken under school policy. Egan said the parents of the children had been cooperative with the school system.
Wayne McClelland, director of court services for the 30th Judicial District Juvenile Services, said Wednesday that the students had been charged with disorderly conduct in a public place and if found guilty could face punishment ranging from probation to community service work. The students are serving a three-day, out-of-school suspension handed down by school officials as a result of their actions.
A 14-year-old female student said her frustration over laws that prohibit prayer in classrooms was the reason she decided to participate in the demonstration. "We feel that you should be allowed to speak or pray in what you believe in even while you are at school without the fear of getting in trouble or someone threatening you," she said. (This child is confused again. There is no law that prevents her from praying, silently. She just can't force others to join.)
"I feel that our rights are not being respected. When the police cars came, I knew what they were going to do, but I was not scared because I knew God was on my side. We knew what we were doing, and we knew what was going to happen, but there are some things worth getting in trouble for. I don't regret doing it."
A 15-year-old female who was also part of the group said she is "fed up" with all of the tragedies involving teen-agers in schools and elsewhere over the past few years and is hopeful that their demonstration has shown that young people "do care about what is going on" with violence and other unwanted aspects of high school life.
"You just get tired of going to school every day worried about all of these other school shootings and how they seem to be getting closer and closer to your hometown, and you say to yourself , Are you going to be OK today?" she said. "Even though the principals came out and told us to go, I was content in staying where I was at. I'm the type of person that stands up for what they believe in, no matter what. Sure, it entered my mind that I could be suspended, but I am doing this for God."
The facts are these students pre planned this. Christians do have legitimate complaints such as schools shouldn't be handing out condoms or passing off liberal propaganda such as feminism, environmental politics as science, or promoting the homosexual lifestyle. Also, most subjects related to "multiculturalism" are often anti-Christian propaganda and need to be removed from public schools.
But what if we put Bible study in the schools? Evangelicals would be the first to object to any critical study of the Bible, its origins, and what it really contains. They won't discuss how we got the Nicene Creed, the extermination of most early Christian churches, or the fact Jesus was a Jew who preached Judaism. They won't discuss the problems with Paul the real founder of Christianity or the Gnostic Greek author who wrote the Book of John about 100 AD. They want to preach and gloss over the real content of the Bible. Or why Christians can't agree on anything and have used force to get agreements.
We can't allow Genesis be taught as science because it's not scientific or historical. There are in fact two different creation stories, two flood stories, etc. because the Torah (Old Testament to Christians) wasn't even written down until after 800 BCE and not translated to Greek until 250 BCE. It's composed of two differing traditions that often conflict and much oral tradition is still not included. Jesus and His Apostles left no known writings. I'm a creationist and believed God is our creator, but Genesis is not a science or history book. Evolution if properly taught doesn't disprove God at all.
Finally, the moral and religious standards of any child are a parental responsibility. The schools need to get back to education and stop acting as substitute parents.
For more on these issues see the following:
- Prayer Protest in Scott County
- Prayer protest in Kingsport: Rule of Law Verses Mob Rule
- See You at the Flag Pole
- Case Against School Prayer
- Sullivan County Tennessee Closing and Consolidating Schools
- School starting time change causes uproar in Bristol, Tennessee
- The negative impact of kids working to pay their bills
- Sitgreaves 'Burger' comment aimed at lack of white-collar jobs in Tri-Cities
- Tenn. high schools leave many students behind
- Tennessee's students still not making the grade
- Students' knowledge of civics, history appalling
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- Taking a Closer Look at Gnosticism and Christianity
- Gnosticism as explained by Bishop N. T. Wright
- Alexander, the Jews, and Hellenism
- More on Alexander the Great, the Jews, and Hellenism
- Hellenistic Period After Alexander
- Alexandrian Philosophy and Judaism - Jewish Encyclopedia
- Platonism and Christianity
- Allegorical Interpretation