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A SHOC-king Disregard for the Constitution

Daniel Bullard-Bates,
ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief
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September 26, 2011

A public school in South Carolina flagrantly violated the Constitution recently by holding a Christian rap concert for students on school property during school hours. While most people would go to great lengths to avoid being caught breaking the law, footage of the event, believed to be taken by the event's organizers, was posted online.

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"Because of this, people in public schools are going to get to know who Jesus Christ is," Bryan Edmonds, also known as Christian rapper B-SHOC, declares in a YouTube video that evinces a series of truly shocking constitutional violations. B-SHOC explains in the video: "324 kids at this school have made a decision for Jesus Christ. I don't know if it gets any better than that. We are in a public school and we did a show for the sixth grade, the seventh grade, and then the eighth grade."

New Heights Middle School in Jefferson, South Carolina, featured the rapper during an assembly that took place earlier this month. B-SHOC's catalog of songs includes titles such as "Jesus Lean'," "Crazy Bout God," and "Christ-Like Cruisin."

A school-sponsored performance of this nature would be unconstitutional by itself, but the list of transgressions doesn't stop there. The video shows event organizers being instructed to pray with students before they return to classes. And as part of the assembly, a preacher, Christian Chapman, delivers a sermon to students. His message? "A relationship with Jesus is what you need, more important than anything else."

Chapman even admits to a group of parents that the event is legally problematic: "Your principal went to me today and I said, 'How are you getting away with this?' and he said, 'I'm not… I want these kids to know that eternal life is real, and I don't care what happens to me, they're going to hear it today.'"

The ACLU has learned that other schools in the Chesterfield County School District may be planning similar events with B-SHOC and is thus calling on the District to launch an immediate investigation into these allegations and ensure that school officials do not repeat their unlawful activities in the future. We also have submitted a public records request to the District seeking information about similar worship rallies and other religious events that may be planned for other District schools.

Public schools are not Sunday schools. School officials should not be promoting religious beliefs to students. They should be protecting students from this type of unconstitutional religious coercion. Instead, the school used its gym as a pulpit in a blatant attempt to convert students to Christianity. James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, the architects of the First Amendment who railed against governmental efforts to indoctrinate citizens, would B-SHOC-ked.

Schools should educate, not indoctrinate. Use our Facebook app to sign the pledge and share the petition and video with your friends, or take action in our action center.

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