May 2005 Church & State | AU Bulletin

North Carolina public school officials have admitted in federal court that a teacher was wrong to include religious lessons in a fifth-grade classroom.

In mid March, parents sued Sunnyside Elementary School in Fayetteville over lessons that incorporated Christian teachings, arguing that they violated the separation of church and state.

The parents’ lawsuit charged that their daughter, Ashlee Nicole Smith, was given reading assignments from a book produced by an evangelical publisher. When Principal Deborah Anderson was confronted about the first lesson, according to the lawsuit, she responded by asking the parents, “What’s the problem? Don’t you and your family go to church?”

Anderson, the lawsuit stated, nonetheless assured the parents that no more lessons would be assigned from the A Beka book. One of the lessons maintained, in part, that “God’s word tells us about a kind of odor only Christians have.…Christians carry forth the fragrance of Christ wherever they go by the way they live.”

But in February, Ashlee showed her parents a worksheet with her answer that “chance” was the reason many animals are colored to match their surroundings marked wrong, reported the Raleigh News and Observer. Ashlee’s teacher said the correct answer was “God’s master design.”

The newspaper reported that Sunnyside school officials filed an agreement in federal district court admitting the allegations in the Smith’s lawsuit were true and pledged not to use those lessons or other religious materials.