The Rutherford Institute has filed a sexual-harassment lawsuit claiming that Deseret Palmer, a 15-year-old student, was subjected to viewing a film that contained graphic violence, profanity, and nudity. Violation of the Constitution's Establishment Clause, guaranteeing separation of church and state, is also claimed because of "torturing and killing in the name of religion."

According to Rutherford attorney Scott Kendall, the case began in November 1993 when, without prior parental consent or student notification, a teacher at Rio Linda High School showed her ninth-grade American literature class an R-rated 1991 video interpretation of Edgar Allan Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum.

One scene depicts three religious figures, apparently priests, inspecting the heroine's body for signs of Satan. "They rip off her clothes," says Kendall, "and she is standing totally naked, full frontal nudity."

Physical molestation goes on for approximately three minutes, Kendall says. "In a film, three minutes is a long, long time. Here are these young boys whooping and hollering, and the girls are getting embarrassed." Palmer became so disturbed that she became physically ill. "Clearly, under the California Educational Code, this was sexual harassment," Kendall says.

Superintendent James Rutter said Palmer's teacher apparently violated district policy by not previewing the film. However, the district has not apologized or taken disciplinary action.

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