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Parents and students sue WV school district over Christian revival

Photo of student protester holding signs

(Pictured: Max Nibert. AP Photo/Leah M. Willingham)

The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit on behalf of parents and students against the Cabell County Board of Education in West Virginia over a Christian revival held at Huntington High School on Feb. 2, 2022. Also named as defendants are School District's Superintendent Ryan Saxe and Huntington High School Principal Daniel Gleason. Nearly a dozen parents and students are named as plaintiffs.

This lawsuit challenges not only a revival event held at the school but the Cabell County Board of Education and its school administrators' history of disregarding the religious freedom of their students and promotion of Christian religious practices. This revival featured Evangelist Nik Walker, who runs Nik Walker Ministries. The event was billed as voluntary, however, two teachers escorted their entire classes to the revival. Some students, including a Jewish student, asked to leave but were not permitted to do so. Students were instructed to bow their heads in prayer and raise up their hands and were warned they needed to make a decision to follow Jesus or face eternal torment. Adult volunteers from a local church went into the crowd to pray with students. Students also observed teachers and administrators praying with church volunteers. Huntington High Principal Daniel Gleason was present at the assembly along with assistant principals.

In response to the revival, more than 100 students participated in a walkout in protest one week later. This was led by a high school senior, and named plaintiff, Max Nibert. 

This revival is not the first time that FFRF has contacted the District regarding religious entanglement issues. FFRF has written several legal complaint letters over adult proselytizing, prayer and religious practices aimed at students within Cabell County Schools.

The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys Marcus Schneider and Kristina Whiteaker, as well as FFRF attorneys Patrick Elliott and Christopher Line. This case is in the Southern District of West Virginia District Court before Judge Robert C. Chambers with the case number 3:22-cv-00085.