JEFFERSON-A classic battle of the church vs. state – or maybe ‘us against them’ – played out at the Ashe County Board of Education meeting Monday night in Jefferson.
Led by a group of outspoken and angry citizens, many with bibles in hand, parents of organizers of the high school’s proposed Bible club appeared before the board to voice their outrage after they say their children were denied access to hold religious study meetings at Ashe County High School earlier this semester.
The failed formation, at least to date, of a school sponsored Bible Club at ACHS drew passionate responses from the community following the news that the school’s new Gay Straight Alliance has been allowed to meet after school hours.
Neither the Bible Club or Gay Straight Alliance Club are sponsored by the school and are not allowed to hold meetings during school hours or instructional time as they are not led by a faculty member.
While parents of interested students feel that their children were singled out in not being allowed to form a Bible study club, school officials said the issue at hand is a procedural one. Simply put: club organizers didn’t check off all their boxes on the appropriate forms.
“We set both sides down and said the rules they had to abide by, and they can advertise with posters around school,” said Ashe County Schools Superintendent Phyllis Yates to the Jefferson Post Monday afternoon. “At this point I don’t think you can blame the high school. One group filled out the application and the other hasn’t.”
Yates said all the Bible Club has to do is fill out the school’s club application and it too will be able to meet after school hours.
While many of the parents and pastors in attendance at Monday’s meeting were likely not privy to Yates comments about the application process, several of these individuals took the opportunity to voice their concerns during the public comment period.
Although the Ashe County School System is secular and funded by taxpayer dollars, many of those who spoke to the board cited the Bible and the school system’s need to stand by God. They also said the exclusion of the club is a microcosm of the larger prosecution Christians are facing in a world bent on being “politically correct.”
Pastor Sonny Thomas, of Calvary Free Will Baptist Church in Glendale Springs, quoted an anonymous email he received on June 1 that made allegations that the Ashe High administration is pushing a “same sex agenda” that is evident by the “rainbow displays” on classroom windows.
Thomas then quickly changed gears and tied the earlier email into one student’s recent request to form a Bible club, which was denied at the behest of the high school.
Thomas claims the high school violated the Equal Access Act and that the school system infringed on her Constitutional rights.
He then referenced the placement of posters at the high school that advertised the GSA, which he believes is inconsistent with the school system’s policy.
Thomas digressed once again when he alleged that a school counselor that sought funding to attend a LGBT themed seminar called, “Out in the High Country.”
“I just wanted you aware of what’s going on at the high school,” said Thomas.
Although the board of education annex was overflowing with citizens eager to speak, the school board limited comments to two minutes in duration and to less than five speakers.
No action was taken following the public comment period.