Greg Hendrix, a U.S. history teacher at Wilbur D. Mills University Studies High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, was suspended after reportedly showing his class "The Passion of the Christ," a graphic R-rated film about the crucifixion of Jesus (video below).
“It was weird," Kristina Coffman, a student, told KTHV. "He shouldn't have done it because there are a lot of students that have different religions. It just didn't feel right."
About five students, Coffman included, walked out of the class when the film began.
“They were like this doesn't feel right," Coffman added. "They just didn't want to be in there."
Rita Sklar, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, added, “It's religious proselytization. It has nothing to do with the class, which is history since 1890.”
The ACLU of Arkansas received complaints from students and parents, is investigating the incident and may file an ethics complaint with the Arkansas State Board of Education.
“Kids having the religious liberty in school means they can express their religious views," Sklar stated. "It doesn't mean the teacher can."
The ACLU of Arkansas said it received an audio recording of Hendrix bashing liberals, Democrats and black people who support the Democratic Party in class.
The audio was reportedly a rant by Hendrix after a showing of "The Passion of the Christ" was canceled by a student complaint. The ACLU of Arkansas forwarded the audio to the Arkansas Times, which published it online.
In one part of the tape, a man's voice, identified as Hendrix by ACLU's legal director Holly Dickson, said:
So here's the deal: your first amendment right to peacefully assemble in this classroom and to have free speech, was ruined by one person. A liberal. I keep telling you, when Democrats are offended by something and they don't agree with it, they want to shut it down, they want to ban it, and they want to censor it. So you have lost your First Amendment right that is guaranteed to you by the Constitution to peaceful assembly in this classroom, and to free speech, because of one person. How's that make you feel?
In another part of the audio, the same voice stated:
I keep telling you, I'll never understand how blacks can support the Democratic party. It just blows my mind. All they do is convince y'all that whoever the Republican nominee is is going to take away food stamps and all this stuff, put you in chains and send you back to Africa. Well, s---. If was going to happen, they would have done it a long time ago, wouldn't you think? Has a Republican ever done that? No. Here's the bottom line on Republicans, because I am one. Actually, I'm a Constitutional Conservative: we just want you to get off your ass and go to work and be productive members of society and quit mooching off the government, because somebody is paying for that. Me.
Dickson told the Arkansas Times that Hendrix was terminated in October 2014 by the Bentonville School District after allegedly calling a former student football player a "fa-----" and a "f------ queer."
In response to the controversy, Pulaski County Special School District spokesperson Deborah Roush released a statement to KTHV:
The Pulaski County Special School District can confirm there was an incident involving allegations of inappropriate discussion in a classroom by a teacher at Mills University Studies High School that has prompted questions by the ACLU. The teacher involved has been suspended with pay pending an investigation by the district, which is underway at this time. Because this is a personnel issue, the district is limited, legally in what we can say beyond that at this time.