Atheist Teacher Claims He Was Fired for Objecting to Christian Proselytizing in Public School
An Indiana school teacher says that he was fired by his school’s Christian principal and school board because he identifies as an atheist.
Kevin Pack, who taught German at the Northridge High School in Middlebury, says that his principal, Gerald Rasler, gave him poor reviews because he questioned prayers and other religious practices performed by Rasler on school time.
Pack, who was fired by the district last year, was hired just a year earlier. The school district’s Superintendent, Jane Allen, contends that Pack was not fired because he’s an atheist, but that he was an immoral, incompetent and insubordinate teacher.
However, Pack maintains that it was his opposition to Rasler’s proselytizing that got him fired. In his lawsuit, Pack maintains:
During a phone interview before he was hired, Rasler asked Pack about his religious beliefs and political leanings.
Before breakfast or lunch was served during faculty meetings, Rasler asked teachers to take part in a Christian prayer. The prayers offended Pack, an atheist committed to the separation of church and state. Because he was a new hire, he didn’t feel he could openly challenge Rasler, but he declined to act as if he was praying, which Rasler noticed.
In an email sent to all faculty, Rasler once asked teachers to pray it wouldn’t snow so that student testing wouldn’t be disrupted. In a reply to all recipients of the email, Pack, alluding to his atheism, said he would choose instead to rely upon the predictions of meteorologists.
Complaints by Pack to the district’s Human Resources department did get Rasler in some hot water, as such religious conduct is prohibited in public schools by law. But it was when Pack began to stand up against Rasler that he says he started to get the disciplinary warnings and poor reviews that lead to his dismissal last April.
The school board counters that Pack showed two inappropriate films to students, “Run, Lola, Run” which is R-rated, and the 1930 Marlene Dietrich classic “The Blue Angel” which depicts a teacher who marries a nightclub showgirl. In the first movie, a man wears a dog collar and a thong and a woman is shown in lingerie. In "The Blue Angel," the school board noted, people were depicted drinking alcohol.
The board says that students complained about the content of the movies, to which Pack allegedly said that he had more important things to worry about than to tend to some “silly teenage drama.”
Pack counters that he decidedly skipped over the objectionable material in both films.
The board also claims that Pack had an inappropriate book, Schiesse! The Real German You Were Never Taught in School, on a counter in his classroom. It features nude drawings, cursing, and sexual content involving animals, claims the board. Pack was also accused of making an inappropriate joke regarding the Holocaust.
The suit was filed this week in U.S. District Court.
Pack’s attorney released a statement regarding the lawsuit, saying, “The First Amendment protects freedom of religion by prohibiting state actors from proselytizing or pressuring people to conform to any religious beliefs. When a teacher objects to conduct not permitted by the First Amendment, he should not lose his job as a result.”
The Indiana State Teachers Association also refutes many of the school districts findings and had done so before Pack was fired. However, the school board accepted the findings of Superintendent Allen.