Over 100 students at a West Virginia public high school walked out of their school on Wednesday in protest of a Christian revival that some argued was a violation of their rights.
The event, organized by the school’s chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, was held last week at Huntington High School. According to Cabell County Schools spokesperson Jedd Flowers, the gathering took place at COMPASS – a daily, “non-instructional” break in the school’s schedule when students can work on college prep, study for tests or listen to guest speakers.
Two teachers reportedly brought their entire class to the FCA event believing it was mandatory.
During the event, students were asked to raise their arms in prayer and surrender their lives to Jesus Christ. Those who didn’t follow the Bible, however, were reportedly told by the speaker that they would go to hell after they died.
One junior student, 16-year-old Cameron Mays, expressed concern about what he heard and texted his father, asking, “Is this legal?”
Meanwhile, Huntington High School senior Max Nibert argued that the event violated the Constitution’s call for the separation of church and state.
“Just to see that defamed and ignored in such a blatant way, it’s disheartening,” he said.
The sermon was led by evangelical preacher Nik Walker of Nik Walker Ministries, who has recently been preaching at revivals across the Huntington area.
In response to the Christian assembly, Nibert and other Huntington students staged a walkout protest during homeroom period on Wednesday. As reported by the Associated Press, over 100 students left their classrooms chanting, “Separate the church and state” and, “My faith, my choice.”
Reporters attempting to cover the demonstration were turned away by school security.
“I don’t think any kind of religious official should be hosted in a taxpayer-funded building with the express purpose of trying to convince minors to become baptized after school hours,” Nibert said. During the walkout, the high school senior held up a sign reading, “My rights are non-negotiable.”
According to The Washington Post, students also obtained about 75 signatures for a petition urging the Cabell County Board of Education to apologize to their families and take disciplinary action against the teachers. The petition further asked the board to assess its policy regarding religion or religious speakers at schools.