A Daviess County High School teacher is under investigation by the school after videos of a classroom lesson showing religious content being taught to a biology class have circulated on the internet. The religious nature of the lesson has some calling into question students’ First Amendment rights.
The video was recorded by a DCHS student in the biology class. On the recording, the teacher can be seen showing a video to the class titled “Hubble Cross in the M51 Whirlpool Galaxy,” which appears to show a the galaxy with a cross at the center of it.
“This is the Hubble Cross in the Whirlpool Galaxy,” the teacher can be heard saying on the video. “Now my understanding, if I can remember correctly, this galaxy is supposedly — I’m going to use the word parallel — it’s like our mirror image of … the Milky Way galaxy.”
A student then responds: “What if there are people four galaxies away reading the same Bible, thinking the same thing we are thinking right now?”
To which the teacher responds: “Right?”
The teacher then pulls up another video, titled “The Sign of the Son of Man Discovered in Deep Space! Indescribable!”, on the projector screen. The video begins with an image of a crucified Jesus before launching into a sermon by Pastor Louie Giglio. In the sermon, Giglio said the image of the cross at the center of the Whirlpool Galaxy reminds him that “Jesus is everywhere.”
“Everywhere you look, it’s God saying ‘I love you,’” Giglio said of the Hubble image before ending the sermon with a prayer.
According to RawStory.com, a left-leaning national news source, the DCHS teacher asked the student to delete the recording of the lesson. According to the website, the matter was taken to the DCHS vice principal, who told the student’s father that classroom recordings were prohibited.
According to DCPS student code of conduct, “the use of any type of telecommunication or similar electronic devices or services for personal, non-instructional purposes during instructional time is prohibited for all students.”
The RawStory.com article states that because DCHS administration did not address the teacher’s religious instruction in the science classroom, the family reached out to the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), who submitted a letter to Daviess County Public Schools Superintendent Matt Robbins.
The letter states the teacher’s “actions constitute an egregious violation of the First Amendment. We write to request that [the teacher] be formally reprimanded for [their] conduct, and that the District provide adequate assurances that no [Daviess County] Public Schools teacher will be permitted to use their classroom to proselytize other people’s children.”
Owensboro Times contacted Robbins regarding the letter and the lesson.
“I am prohibited from making any comments concerning any specific student under federal and state law,” Robbins responded in email. “Likewise, it is the policy of DCPS to not comment on any personnel matters. While I cannot comment with respect to any specific student or personnel matter, DCPS is committed to protecting ALL constitutional rights of our students, whether afforded under the First Amendment or otherwise. Any alleged violation of the rights of any student will be investigated swiftly and fully according to established district policy and, if substantiated, will be subject to discipline according to state law and district policy.”
The mother of the student who recorded the lesson appeared on a Kentucky podcast for atheism, free thought and separation of church and state issues called Blasphemy in the Bluegrass last week.
“I started to look for people to help me deal with the situation,” the mother said on the podcast. “I found the FFRF and that they had several cases against people who were being discriminated against or pushed into a religious situation that they didn’t want to be in.”
The mother told the podcast host that her child has been removed from the class and placed in a different biology class while DCHS administration investigates the situation.
Owensboro Times reached out to FFRF and Blasphemy in the Bluegrass, neither of which responded by the time of publishing.