Public schools in South Carolina are being met with criticism again after allowing Christian-themed rallies to take place on school grounds.
Last month, a Christian rapper known as B-SHOC performed at a daytime rally at New Heights Middle School in Chesterfield County alongside youth evangelist Christian Chapman, resulting in much controversy.
The rapper identified as Bryan Edmonds had posted a YouTube video about the event held for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders, and commented that 324 students had gotten saved.
He was purportedly set to come back to perform this week at two high school nighttime events, according to a letter obtained by the Associated Press, drawing criticism from humanist groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
The Wisconsin-based group had previously sent a letter to the school district complaining that the Sept. 1 rally held at the school violated the Constitution, even though the rally was optional for students.
They were distressed that the school seemed to be promoting religious events, with the school posting a student-written report of the rally on their website with links to the rapper’s site as well as Chapman’s. The report which highlighted the “worship rally” was promptly removed from the school’s website, as well as the links, after media began inquiring about the event.
In response to FFRF’s complaint, attorney David Duff of Columbia sent a letter to the group, stating that he had met with District Superintendent John Williams, school board members and New Heights Middle School principal Larry Stinson discussing First Amendment rights.
“I believe that all concerned now have a full understanding of the interplay between the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and the principle of separation of church and state in the public school context,” Duff wrote in the letter, according to AP.
He also told the group that the First Amendment principles would be reviewed again when administrators next met as a group.
But Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of FFRF, was still not reassured.
“They say they are committed to following the First Amendment,” Gaylor told AP. “But it seems they are turning this school district into a worship center.”
Adding to the group’s list of concerns, community members and parents of school children appeared to show support for the events.
The Cheraw Chronicle reported that at a recent school board meeting, about 200 parents had filled the meeting to “glorify God and support Jesus Christ in [their] schools.”
One parent commented that Stinson, the principal of the middle school that held the rally, had “made a lot of wonderful changes in the school.”
Gaylor told AP that she remained concerned because of the community’s support for religious-themed events on public school grounds. And optional afterschool religious events were also questionable to her.
She believed that sponsors of the events should be paying rent for use of the facilities.
Regardless, B-SHOC is scheduled to perform on Friday and Saturday at McBee High School and Central High School, events sponsored by local churches and the Hope Family Worship Center.
Duff explained that those events complied under school board policy and also said that they were “non-school” events because they took place during afterschool hours. Additionally on Friday, students are excused from school because of parent-teacher conferences.
Ken Buck, a Chesterfield spokesman, confirmed with AP B-SHOC’s appearance but did not have any knowledge on whether the Christian groups involved were paying rent or not for use of the facilities.