Mandatory attendance at religious assembly called ‘mistake’
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - A typical day of school for some students in Cabell County turned into what some parents are calling a forced religious revival.
Herman Mays says he was shocked when his son, a student at Huntington High School, showed him a video of a religious assembly he says he was told by a teacher that he had to attend.
That assembly was held Wednesday at the school.
Nik Walker Ministries posted on their public Facebook page that they went to two schools in Cabell County for “voluntary meetings,” but Mays says that wasn’t the case.
“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,” 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.”
The district says students who are a part of FCA, or Fellowship of Christian Athletes, hosted a minister as they do regularly -- and the worship was intended to be voluntary.
“We have Fellowship of Christian Athletes, organizations, different groups on all of our campuses, and the students are allowed to have guests and go to events and that sort of thing. The whole idea is that we’re not supposed to force them to do so,” Flowers said. “In this case it seems like some of our teachers maybe had a misunderstanding about what they could and couldn’t do and did have their classes go to the service that they had there at the school.”
Flowers says these religious events are not sponsored by the school. They are student-run and take place inside the school building.
“It’s a very nice event, and of course the students are welcomed to attend, but it has to be by their own will,” Flowers said.
“I have absolutely no problem with anyone’s religious beliefs. What they choose to believe in terms of religion or what they don’t choose to believe in. My problem is more with the constitutionality of this activity as it pertains to the public schools,” Mays said.
Bethany Felinton, a parent of two students at Huntington High School, says her children had different experiences.
“I have another child that’s also at Huntington High School, and her class did not have to go. It was optional to her class. However, my son’s class -- it was not,” Felinton said.
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