Students at a public high school in West Virginia were forced to attend an evangelical Christian sermon between classes last week.
According to the Associated Press, the event was held in Huntington High School’s auditorium during a daily, “noninstructional” break in the schedule.
Students were told by their teachers to go to the auditorium for the service. While there, they were instructed to close their eyes, raise their hands in prayer and beg Jesus for salvation. They were told to follow the teachings of the Bible or risk going to hell when they died.
One Jewish student who was forced to attend the assembly felt uncomfortable and asked for permission to leave, but he was told that his classroom was locked and he could not go, according to The AP.
“It’s a completely unfair and unacceptable situation to put a teenager in,” the student’s mother said. “I’m not knocking their faith, but there’s a time and place for everything — and in public schools, during the school day, is not the time and place.”
Jedd Flowers, a spokesperson for Cabell County Schools said the event was voluntary and students were suppose to signup to attend the event, but two teachers mistakenly brought their entire class.
“It’s unfortunate that it happened,” Flowers told AP. “We don’t believe it will ever happen again.”
Whether voluntary or not, religious services are not allowed during school hours.
“It is inappropriate and unconstitutional for the District to offer religious leaders unique access to preach and proselytize students during school hours on school property,” Freedom From Religion Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes the separation of church and state, wrote in a letter to the school district, according to the AP.
Students at the school staged a walkout on Wednesday to protest the assembly. School security turned away members of the press who wanted to cover the protest.