Buddhist Student Publicly Shamed, School Faces Lawsuit

By Jake Delahanty

“ISN’T IT AMAZING WHAT (blank) HAS MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” read a test question created by Rita Roark.

According to Roark, a teacher at a Louisiana Sabine Parish public school, the correct answer to this test question is “Lord.”

However, one Buddhist 6th grader named C. Lane answered incorrectly, angering Roark, who proceeded to belittle the confused student in front of the class.

According to Carol Kuruvilla of New York Daily News, “(Roark) told her class that the Bible was ‘100 percent true’ and that Buddhism is ‘stupid.’”

Lane’s parents did not take kindly to this type of treatment and teamed up with the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana to sue the school board.

The ACLU sees the school’s behavior as unconstitutional because it violates the Establishment Clause which mandates the separation of church and state.

“The Lanes are asking for a declaratory judgment that declares the actions of the defendants unconstitutional,” said Lauren McGaughy on NOLA.com.

Majorie Esman of the Louisiana ACLU sees this incident as a clear-cut case of religious intolerance.

“It’s quite simple,” said Esman in a phone interview. “My job is to protect the constitutional rights of the people of Louisiana. If this type of behavior is going on in other places, I hope this lawsuit will empower others to step up.”

Walter Hassell, an Early College student whose family is from Louisiana, provided another perspective on the case by explaining what it was he thought incited Roark’s actions.

“In a word, ignorance,” said Hassell. “Not being properly exposed to other cultures can lead to this type of oppression and insensitivity. I’m ashamed to be from a state where this would happen.”

Associate Professor of Religious Studies and practicing Buddhist Eric Mortensen also had a lot to say regarding the subject.

“What’s disgusting about this scenario is that lawsuits against this type of abusive bigotry are typically met by conservative Christians’ … excuse that ‘we are exercising our freedom of religion,’” said Mortensen in an email interview. “The key here is to recognize insanity when we see it and aim to correct is as gently and open-mindedly as possible.”

In the weeks to come, the Louisiana court handling this case will hear from many witnesses. For the time being, Lane’s parents have removed him from the school, while the ACLU continues to push the lawsuit forward.

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