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A public school district in West Virginia can’t seem to get its story straight when it comes to explaining how a Christian ministry infiltrated its building during the school day and held a religious revival. Their excuses don’t match the evidence and the backlash is now much larger than they ever expected.

All of this began on Wednesday afternoon, when Nik Walker Ministries posted a rather bizarre message on Facebook.

He said he had just returned from Boyd County High School and Huntington High School — both public schools in the same area — “where right at 50 students gave their lives to Jesus at their voluntary club meetings!”

This is the sort of thing ministries often post. They love bragging about entering public schools and winning new converts, as if they’ve entered some sort of minefield. But it’s not like that’s unusual. Christian groups are allowed to meet after school, and they can even rent out space at a school to hold church services on weekend. If this was indeed a voluntary event, it’s not a huge deal.

They even posted something similar the very next day:

This time, Walker said he had preached and converted dozens of students at Spring Valley High School during a “voluntary assembly,” presumably during the school day. That’s far more disturbing because public schools don’t usually host voluntary assemblies during the school day, much less one for a Christian ministry. The implication was that kids were skipping class for something resembling a church service. Is that what happened at those other schools?!

That’s when the floodgates opened. Consider that Huntington High School event that was supposedly “voluntary.” According to local news channel WSAZ, it wasn’t voluntary at all. One parent told the station that his son’s teacher told people they “had to attend” the assembly. The school even appeared to agree with that characterization, calling it a “mistake.”

“When I talked to my son, he said there was no list give to him at any time. No one asked him if he wanted to participate or sign any forms or anything,” [parent Herman] Mays said.

WSAZ reached out to Cabell County Schools for clarity on the situation.

Jedd Flowers, Director of Communications at Cabell County Schools, referred to the situation as a “mistake.”

“Of course, as soon as we heard about the situation we did make the changes that we had to make. Unfortunately, the teachers made a mistake in this case in taking the students and taking them to that as part of a requirement. It was a mistake,” Flowers said. “It was something we addressed immediately and we hope that will never happen again.”

How the hell does a “mistake” like that happen? The school said the event was sponsored by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and some teachers wrongly thought it was mandatory…

But there are a couple of major problems with that excuse.

First is that there’s audio of the event, and it makes clear this event resembled a religious revival service. There was no secular reason this should’ve been allowed in a public school during regular hours.

The second problem is that, according to one student, this wasn’t really a “mistake” at all. His teachers referred to Nik Walker as a “guest speaker” with no mention of his religious affiliation… a form of deliberate obfuscation. The same student claimed that teachers knew damn well what was going on because they signed up students who supposedly “needed it,” including Jewish students. Students were also told leaving the assembly could result in a suspension.

A school official later told the media that this was a student-led event that occurred during “non-instructional time,” as if to say kids weren’t skipping class to attend this revival. But that, too, doesn’t make sense, because the event took place during what’s known as the COMPASS period, which is meant to give students a chance to meet with teachers. Students can also attend clubs during this time, but to pretend it’s not instructional is insulting.

Now one student is staging a walkout.

In a letter sent to school officials and the Cabell County School Board, student Max Nibert wrote that his goal is to fight for a “better, fairer tomorrow.”

if a revivalist Christian sermon can be held for students [during the COMPASS period], we claim the absolute ability to protest the violation of our rights that accompanied this sermon during the same (apparently pointless) period.

This walk-out is an attempt to convey our grievance; responses from the administration and the county Board of Education were not satisfactory. Student rights are non-negotiable, and by choosing half-hearted apologies and inaction in the aftermath of what happened, those at fault demonstrated their lack of empathy and concern for our well-being.

To quote the Mid-Ohio Valley Atheists & Humanists, “The kids are alright.”

Separately from that planned walkout, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is also getting involved. Attorney Chris Line wrote a letter to district officials asking for more clarification on this so-called “mistake”:

We understand that some District administrators are claiming that this was a permissible, voluntary event held by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. This was clearly not the case. Even if it were voluntary, a religious revival taking place during the school day violates the Establishment Clause, and courts have summarily rejected arguments that voluntariness excuses a constitutional violation.

The District should also consider reprimanding those staff members involved with allowing this school-sponsored religious worship services to take place. At the very least, all District staff members should be reminded of their constitutional obligations as public school employees given the pattern of school-sponsored proselytizing in the District.

All this trouble because Nik Walker, a Christian preacher who once got caught lying about his proof for a supposed miracle, wanted to convert teenagers without their parents present and a bunch of public school administrators were dumb enough to allow him through their doors.

Hemant Mehta is the founder of FriendlyAtheist.com, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.