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Christian Persecution 2
Background

In 1993, Lisa Herdahl and her family moved from Wisconsin to Ecru, Mississippi, a small rural town in the northeastern part of the state. When looking at the local public school system, she learned something which disturbed her: all the schools in Ponotoc County held mandatory Bible classes and prayers, including both in-class prayers and intercom prayers.

It was later discovered that not only were the Bible classes part of the school curriculum, but also that there was extensive religious instruction in other classes. The school system used Bible teachers selected and paid by a group of local Protestant churches. These teachers were chosen partially because of their personal "salvation experience" and they reported to the church committee on the numbers of students saved during the classes.

This forced a serious decision upon Lisa: should she tell her children to follow along with the others, or should she tell them to hold true to the Christian principles she had raised them with? As she told in testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives:

I am a Christian and I am raising my children as Christians. I believe that it is my job as a parent, and not the job of the public schools, to teach my children about religion and prayer. Religion is something that my children learn at home and in church, and I did not and do not want the public schools telling them when and how to pray. Because prayers were being broadcast over the school intercom as classes were beginning in the morning, however, my children could not avoid them. I was particularly concerned because the intercom prayers were in the name of Jesus, and I teach my children to pray directly to God. My ability as a parent to teach my children to pray and our religious freedom was being undermined.

She chose the second option, which would eventually touch off a firestorm of controversy and anger. Her children were the only ones who refused to participate in the religious instruction in the schools, which immediately set them apart from the others. New children always have some problems, but this only made things worse - and the teachers were no help whatsoever. They informed the other children that the Herdahls didn't participate because they didn't believe in God, leading to accusations that they were atheists and devil worshippers:

Because I requested that my children not participate in the religious instruction at the school, my children have been ridiculed and harassed by teachers and classmates, and falsely called "devil worshipers"and "atheists." For example, as my son David was leaving his elementary classroom before one Bible class, one of his classmates also asked to leave the classroom. His teacher said words to the effect that: "David doesn't believe in God. People who believe in God go to Bible class -- those who don't, don't go to Bible class." David was later harassed by other children who falsely accused him of not believing in God.

Some children might have attempted to become friends anway - despite how cruel children can be, they are also capable of seeing past differences and growing close despite cultural obstacles. But the parents made sure that didn't happen:

Actually a kid in David's class wrote him a note and told him that if he was caught talking to David or playing with him his parents would beat him up. We have that piece of evidence.


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