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A federal judge issued what he called a "non-Kumbaya" order to two Texas educators this week, requiring them to apologize for disparaging remarks made about an agnostic family who sued a school district over school prayer.
The San Antonio Express News reports that under Monday's ruling Medina Valley Independent School District superintendent James Stansberry and high school band director Keith Riley will have to formally say they are sorry for violating a portion of a legal settlement that forbade administrators and employees from disparaging the family.
The settlement, reached last month, banned administrators from praying with students, proselytizing, or displaying religious symbols other than jewelry, according to the paper. USA Today notes that organized prayer is permitted by the settlement, but commencement ceremonies in the district will carry a disclaimer making clear that statements by students are not endorsed by the district.
Soon after the settlement was reached, Stansberry said the lawsuit was a "witch hunt" in a televised interview and, despite the terms of the settlement indicating otherwise, claimed that the agnostic family "wanted our teachers to stop wearing crosses." Riley got in trouble for a Facebook comment saying "don't get me started on the lies and false accusations," referring to former student Corwyn Schultz, the student at the center of the lawsuit, the San Antonio Express News explains.
U.S. District Judge Fred Biery's order has a whiff of comical exasperation to it. He wrote:
The court does not expect the parties to hold hands and sing "Kumbaya" around a campfire beside the Medina River... Nor does the court expect the respondents to engage in a public spectacle of self-flaggellation for communicating words better left unsaid."
Moreover, the court does not expect plaintiffs to become Traditional Christians, though the court suggests plaintiffs might follow the moral and civility lessons of Matthew 5:39 ("if someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also") and a portion of "Essay on Criticism" ("to err is human; to forgive, divine").
The order requires the educators to sign a statement saying they've apologized to the family within the next ten days, and the family will have to sign a statement accepting the apology.