Lawsuit Over Revival Assembly Prompts West Virginia School District to Require Religious Freedom Training
A West Virginia school district has implemented a policy requiring annual training on religious freedom as a stipulation in a lawsuit settlement following a 2022 incident in which an evangelical preacher organized a religious assembly on a school day, compelling some of the 1,000-plus students to attend.
In a settlement officially concluded on October 26, the Cabell County Board of Education is obligated to emphasize that a public school should neither impede nor promote religious beliefs or practices, according to a statement made by Brian D. Morrison, the board’s attorney, to Associated Press.
Morrison emphasized that students should retain the freedom to independently and willingly express their personal religious beliefs —or the absence of such beliefs—based on their own discretion.
In February 2022, four families in Huntington, the second-largest city in West Virginia, filed a lawsuit against the school district. They alleged that the school system in the southwestern region of the state had a long-standing pattern of neglecting the religious freedom of its students and implementing Christian religious practices.
According to the lawsuit, two teachers from Huntington High School accompanied their entire homeroom classes to a religious assembly conducted by evangelical preacher Nik Walker, who had been leading revival events in the area in the preceding weeks.
Among those at the assembly was a Jewish teenager who sought permission to leave but was denied it. Students were directed to shut their eyes and raise their arms in prayer, states the lawsuit, adding that they were encouraged to commit their lives to Jesus and were informed that those who did not adhere to the Bible would confront the prospect of “eternal torment.”
At the religious assemblies, students and their families were urged to participate in evening services at a nearby church, where, they were told, they could undergo baptism.
The lawsuit was initiated after an incident at Huntington High School where over 100 students staged a walkout, chanting slogans such as “Separate the church and state” and “My faith, my choice.”