Religion Weasels It’s Way into My Kids’ School

Tonight was open house at our kids’ Middle School. As we walked in the door, we were greeted by a woman handing out blue flyers about a before school program for kids who get there early to meet, have donuts and have “fun”.   This program is to be held in the lower gym at the middle school.

Here is the front of the flyer. (Please forgive the poor quality, they were taken with my phone camera).

 

Wakeup 7

 

Here is the back of the same flyer:

Flyer 2

At this point I was still reading this.  I thought, considering that it said  “Campus Life” that it might be a program rung by one of the local colleges.  The woman who was handing them out was standing right by the line where you had to get in to in order to get your child’s schedule.  She told us that it was a before school program  where kids could go, have donuts, hang out with their peers and have “fun”.   Never once did she mention that she was with a Christian organization.  Nothing in the literature that she handed even hinted at all that this was run by a religious group.

Fotunately, Lorraine noticed a table about six feet away from her that was set back and  that had this flyer on it:

flyer 3

 

We proceeded to ask the woman who was handing the blue flyers out why they didn’t state on those flyers that the program was being run by a Christian group.  She told use that their other information was available at their table.  When I raised the point the the table was set back and several feet away from where she was handing out her flyers, she directed me to her director.  I raised the same objection to him as I did to her and got the same response.  I pointed out that the blue flyer was misleading because it didn’t in anyway let parents know that this was a program offered by a religious organization.

At this point, Lorraine spoke up and asked if the kids were going to be told how much their faith will save them and that that  the must pray to god in order to be saved.  After some prodding by Lorraine, te said that, yes, they do try to help the kids find their faith and open themselves to discovering god and how he can work in their lives.  Basically, he told us that, yes, their goal was to convert children to their faith, although he was loathed to use the word “covert”, preferring words like “discovering their faith”, and “finding the faith inside themselves”.

We tried to find the principle to ask him why he was allowing this overtly religious group to meet every morning in the school cafeteria and indoctrinate children into their particular flavor of Christianity, but were unable to corner him.  We plan on questioning him on this as soon as we can.

Many parents would likely read the first flyer, which has no mention whatsoever about this being a religious activity, and figure that it would be a great way to feel safe dropping their kids off early at school.  What they probably wouldn’t know unless they had noticed the other flyers on the table is that their children would end up being encouraged to “find their faith” and pray  for Jesus to save them.

The one good thing was that after our confrontation with them, the group were handing out a smaller yellow flyer that did state that they were a religious organization.  I couldn’t tell if they were handing those instead of the blue ones or in addition to the blue ones.

Our public schools are supposed to be free of religious influence, but here, in the guise of a way for kids to “have fun” and get to know each other, and talk about issues that interest them, they are subtlety being indoctrinated into a set of beliefs that they, and their parents are unaware of and may disagree with.

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45 thoughts on “Religion Weasels It’s Way into My Kids’ School

  1. Hi, I don’t see the harm in this. The kids are in middle school, they are exposed to lots of things in school and society, “indoctrinating” is not the correct word. If they were meeting with grade school kids, THEN you might be closer to the truth.

    and saying that the parents are unaware of it is misleading. Do middle school kids have their own homes and drive themselves to school every day? If the parents of these kids are unaware of what goes on in these meetings then they have only themselves to blame.

    • You should see the harm in this if you care about the constant assault on your US Constitution. If this were happening even at the local community college, and even if you are a Christian, you should still be upset.

    • The matter isn’t one of simple exposure. I encourage my kids (non-religious) to attend church with friends if they feel so inclined. Exposure isn’t the issue at all.

      A public school is STATE property. Religion is a PERSONAL choice, and we do not have a state-sanctioned religion in this country. Ergo, the location was inappropriate in its entirety. The guise to “get-together” without stating at the forefront that it is of a christian flavor is duplicitous and disingenuous. The hesitation to answer very straightforward questions made by concerned parents demonstrates knowledge and forethought to the sheer wrongness of it.

      And if you can’t see the harm in that, then you’re willfully blind.

      • I do care about the constitution but what this group is doing is not in violation of that. The school is not endorsing Christianity, they are simply letting them use their space. Otherwise a school could argue that a cross necklace, a scripture tattoo or a shirt with Jesus on it would be a violation too.

        IF their was intent to mislead by the group then that is wrong and even contradictory to Christian teachings. I cannot say if they were misleading. They DID have literature with Christianity on them as well as the ones that didn’t. One might think that they were being wise when they were “marketing” towards kids. Kids sometimes don’t like church things and view it almost as school. Kind of like a kid does not like Sunday School but if he finds out there is gonna be pizza and Mountain Dew he may want to go. It all gets down to intent. I don’t know their hearts, I’m sure you don’t either.

        Who knows, at the first meeting they might explain what exactly their mission is and what they believe. THEN the kids can decide if they want to be a part of it.

        Hard to tell what their motives are but I don’t see anything wrong with it legally.

        And the left has all sorts of little “weasley” ways to spread their ideologies in the classroom. That would be wrong too right?

      • In regards to use of space the question is whether other groups are given equal access to the space. Could a muslim, atheist or satanist group offer the same kind of thing in the same space? Also is the christian organization paying the going rate for use of the space or is it free for all to use?

        Almost invariably neither of those is true and so the school is both favoring the christian organization and subsidizing their proselytizing.

      • And the left has all sorts of little “weasley” ways to spread their ideologies in the classroom.

        Yep, they do all sorts of nasty things like presenting facts and information, and allowing open discussion of controversial topics. Thankfully, we have plenty of conservative douchebags working hard to protect children from the dangerous prospect of learning about accurate science or the existence of non-heterosexuals.

    • (apologies…I couldn’t reply directly, as there was no further “Reply” linkage…my responses to you are at the bottom of the comments threads.)

  2. I’m not opposed to the group using the school, or even their purpose. Just because it’s religious and at a school breaks no laws or is in any way inappropriate. I would also not be opposed to the group leaving out their religious affiliation on the flier…IF…they were not making religion a part of the activity. If it was just a gather up with no religious activity, then their Christian affiliation is irrelevant.

    I am however opposed to them handing out literature which does not explicitly say they are a Christian organization intending on speaking on Christian or religious topics. The fact that the nature of the intended activities and discussion topics is absent is deceitful.

    Hopefully you aren’t a bigot in regards to religion and do not demand that they stop the activity, just that they are more up front with their intentions.

    • This isn’t a matter of being bigoted toward religion. It’s a matter of appropriateness of time and place. Of course religious people are perfectly free to peddle their wares to the general public…but not on state property without express permission.

      I don’t know where you live, or how entrenched christianity is in your community, but where I live it’s particularly mired. Having a daughter in middle school, I can tell you that the sheer pressure to conform by peers is as intense as it ever has been anywhere – but add the religious factor to the mix, and it gets messy. Being up front about intentions is important – and on that I fully agree. I feel that the location, however, was just as insidious as the weaselly “sin of omission” on their fliers.

      And make no mistake, they’re not doing it accidentally. There is a LOT of well-documented history to this particular movement. It’s not a matter of being “anti-religious” in this sense. It’s a matter of the far-right neoconservative christian movement that has been working tirelessly at local levels (starting with school boards, by the way, and local city councils across the country) for more than 30 years that has brought the bubbles to the surface that you’re seeing in this post. Being tolerant of religion’s presence is one thing; having religion peddled to schoolchildren without any consideration to parental consent is another entirely.

      Most likely, the people passing out the fliers were not expecting to be questioned intently…and their lack of immediate response to Jay’s questions showcases the underhanded nature to be quite deliberate.

  3. I am horrified. Demand they stop this use of a public school to press a particular religious agenda. It is a clear violation of the 1st amendment. Could be one to call in FFRF if needed.

  4. I hope it would be banned from school property. And I would hope the school would prohibit the group from handing out fliers on school property. Religious people will be who they are but they should be upfront about what they intend, they should do it only in places that are clearly identified as religious in nature or in neutral public, non-government funded/assisted venues. Middle school is exactly the place where children start to be less forthcoming with their parents as they test the boundaries and find their voice. It is incumbent on parents to stay involved and informed but it is also incumbent on the schools not to make that harder than absolutely necessary. And if the group is being circumspect (and really, be honest,why weren’t they handing out the yellow fliers?) then they need to shown the door, which they never should have gotten in anyway.

  5. If it were a Muslim organization starting a doughnut group on Wednesday mornings, with no mention of religion in their fliers, I wouldn’t like it. I don’t like it as a Christian group, either.

    They are being sneaky, and that ticks me off. If I wanted my kids to have a Christian influence, I could take care of that on my own, thank you.

  6. Mitchell and John….Would you feel the same way if it was Muslim organization?

    The bottom line is that religious indoctrination (do not kid yourself, this is exactly what it is) has no place in our public schools.

  7. There is a difference between school sponsored and school permitted. The group and attendence is wholly voluntary. No one is being compelled in any way here. The only thing that needs correcting is an addition to the flier making it known the gathering is religiously focused so perspective attendees know what they are going to be taking part in.

  8. Yes, Richard I would. Attendence is not required by and school or government policy and is wholly voluntary. The religious make up of the group is irrelevant. Beit Muslim, Hindu, Mormon, Christian, or even secular.

    The only problem with the situation is the group failed to disclose thatt the content of the gathering would entail religious substance. Once that is clarified, there is no problem.

    • The religious make up would be irrelevant if they were not proselytizing their faith in a tax payer funded building. The simple fact is they are.

  9. I agree with Richard. Taxpayer funded building….take it somewhere else. And don’t underestimate their sneakiness; they didn’t hand fliers with full information and they are no doubt aware of the high degree of peer pressure or desire to be part of a group that goes along with that particular age. Meet at a church. Then EVERYTHING is aboveboard.

    • Yes indeedio.

      My daughter’s school’s ONLY after-school program is sponsored by a church. The invitation to participate was sent home to parents in the open house packet…and it isn’t so much that it’s a church-sponsored program that bothers me (because for parents/families who are christian, it seems an appropriate after-school location for their kids); it’s that it’s presented in the county school agenda. Now, I can see the “argument” that the school isn’t technically advocating for it, but by containing it in official county informationals to parents, the implied support is there. On my tax-payer dime and everyone else’s in this county.

      To me, that is reprehensible. The church could simply have put together a flier and mass mailed it to citizens who reside in the county…as they are most certainly free to do. Putting it into a school informational is just ill to me. And should be to anyone who understands the purpose of that Great Wall of Separation…whether the American “anyone” in question is religious or not.

  10. Consider contacting an organization which specializes in issues like this for advice; they may also carry more weight with the principal and the school board. For instance, you might contact Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and ask them whether allowing access to this organization (only to them? to others?) and the misleading flyers pass constitutional muster.

  11. I indicated elsewhere that here in Georgia, we have this issue in a *major* way…and it traces back to the federal government. Here is the Georgia governor’s website’s “Faith-Based Organization Information” page – which also has a link to the HHS’s page called “The Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships” – lovely, eh? I discovered these things when I was researching the sex education program provided to my kids’ school, and presented by a group called TLC Consultants – which provides an AOUM format, which of course, is religiously motivated. When you go to TLC’s home page, the religious nature is VERY clear.

    By whatever name people want to call it…it’s an attempt by the far-right wing toward indoctrination of children starting earlier than middle school, come to it…and so long as we have parents who are not paying attention, the religious right will continue these tactics. It’s sick and twisted.

  12. 1st Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. – I believe the amendment protects the right of people to freely and peacefully exercise their religon anywhere public or private in the U.S. a school would be no exception. In this case the students volunteer to attend before instructional periods.

    • The amendments are directed to people who are not still dependent on other people (adults), and who have the capacity to exercise those rights enumerated in the Constitution. Not to undermine parental authority in a location where said parental authority pays taxes for its existence. There are more appropriate ways for churches and religious groups to advertise their programs.

    • Furthermore, for students who want to volunteer to organize *in non-religious* format (e.g., an atheist group) – schools have fought them and refused to let the kids do it. Why should religious practice be supported on the grounds that people are “free to pray”? — hell, Scott, as long as schools have tests, kids are going to pray. Nobody is saying they can’t. That is not the issue of this flier…and what its peddler finally admitted to after being questioned seriously…that Yes, they are seeking to convert kids to their religion.

      In the subdivision where I live, there is a significant Indian population. I believe that many of them would be offended by this flier, for example. Their children are not encouraged to practice religion in school…why does christianity get a free pass? The *single* exception I make for schools is religious tolerance in food provisions for children of different faiths, because kids need to eat in order to learn…and there should be respect for the family’s food restrictions as applicable. In fact, I would probably argue that a *BETTER* use of that 7 a.m. time until school starts is for kids to be getting their breakfast, and perhaps volunteering to help cafeteria staff in serving the food and clearing the tables. You know, actually DO stuff that the christ talked about instead of just blathering about it.

  13. Thats the thing, its mostly Christians who evangelize. Its not necessarily that others are excluded so much as it is others dont evangelize, or perhaps dont seek to use the facilities in equal proportion as Christian groups.

    Now if you could show that others were refused time and space you’d have a case.

    But as it stands, no laws are being broken, just people seeking to silence religion.

    Note: silencing opposing points of view, and seeking them banned is the definition of bigotry, and intolerance.

    • I don’t hear anyone trying to silence religion, John…just demanding that they keep to places that are not funded by public taxpayer dollars…such as a public school. I have never been about silencing others – I fully support *everyone’s* right to freedom of expression. There are, however, limits to *where* people can express those things…and there are far more appropriate venues than a public middle school.

  14. Comment to Mitchell (no reply button available, so separate comment…sorry, I like threads, but… :))

    Okay, when a child *chooses* to wear a shirt or jewelry with religious symbology, that is their choice. That is not an invitation to anyone to “join” them. It is not an active decision to recruit more. It is a personal choice. Which most, if not all, of us support…so long as symbology doesn’t infringe on others’ (which most religious symbols do not) rights. For instance, my kids’ schools have kind of a harsh punishment for things that fall into the realm of hate speech (nazi symbols, et al).

    I don’t pretend to know others’ hearts…however, I don’t hide behind pretense either. I don’t advertise my lack of religion, and I don’t try to change others’ faiths. That is what most religions do. If you read the other comments I’ve made here, you’ll note that I don’t have any problem whatsoever with others’ faith or lack thereof. Those are personal matters…and they have nothing to do with education outside of Sunday school.

    I have issues with the extreme left that pushes ideologies in a classroom, yes. Careful where you tread here, lest I turn around and share what happened when my kids & I lived in Washington state and I had to go to the head of the school district for extreme leftist teaching that was (a) age inappropriate and (b) historically inaccurate. Just as you and I don’t know the hearts and intentions of religiously motivated people, you don’t know me from Eve. So you don’t know what motivates me…which I will happily share, but will strike back hard on misguided assumptions. Ask Jay…lol….I’m as easy-going as anyone here, but as nice as I can be…while I never fight dirty, I do debate fiercely and without apology. 🙂

    • Yeah the way these comments are set up are a bit confusing.

      Where I disgree with you is that just by having a meeting before school (not on school time) is not infringing on anyone. The kids do not have to go. Just like they do not have to go to church. It would be similar to the military recruiting on a college campus. The students are not required to go. So nobody should be offended. But I don’t like the fact you used the word “recruiting.” As a Christian, I tell people about Jesus because I think that Jesus will give them the best life available, not to increase numbers or any other motive. So even if someone disagrees with the teachings of the bible, they should applaud the effort to help someone.

      You are right, I kind of put you in the liberal box. I apologize, I did the thing that I despise and I am sorry. And am happy to hear that your views are consistent and not just against Christian things.

      Good discussion.

      • It’s a great discussion…and I relish honest conversation! 🙂 If the kids *choose* to meet before school (without outside interference) then I am ALL for it, religion regardless. I have issues with the way this whole thing was presented to Jay…which I touched on in my own blog…the real “whys & wherefores”…mainly from where I live and what my daughter contends with on a daily basis (being called “Atheist Girl” in the form of an insult because she does not believe in any god, though she continues to go to churches with her friends when invited). The time in the morning is theirs…if they’re there. (WOW, how often does one get to use the their/they’re/there mix in one sentence????LOL)…there are more positive ways to spend that time. Also, as the christian you call yourself, I would say there are probably some really great ways to spend that time in the ways actually taught by the christ than through any religiously-based group. (Yes, I grew up in the church, and am intimately familiar with his teachings :). He was a great man, if he existed in the sense we were taught.)

        The christ gave one commandment…and only one, though he never strayed away from OT teachings.That we love one another. That’s it. It doesn’t have a dogmatic attachment to it…and he wasn’t the first (or last) to teach it. I choose to live by it.

        No worries, Mitchell…I have many *terrific* friends of all spices and flavors of beliefs and persuasions…and I cherish them all. I learn so much from people – with and without disagreement. I believe that being *good* is more important than being “nice”…and open honest conversation is necessary between people who mean well and who may disagree…that is how real-world problems are resolved. Peace to you and yours.

  15. Also to Mitchell, yes, I would have a problem if ANY religious group – whether Muslim or satanist group tried the same thing. (Atheism isn’t a religion…and you generally don’t find us proselytizing for conversion…however, the matter of atheism as a purpose is not unfamiliar to me…VERY familiar. There are camps dedicated to teaching kids about science, space, and the world around us…and don’t discuss god or a lack thereof…that, kind sir, isn’t indoctrination but education.)

    I don’t know where you live, but christianity is most certainly favored where I live…and I posted links in this commentary that plainly substantiate my assertion.

  16. @Posey, if it is was the alleged sneakiness that you were against then that is a valid argument. And if it were me trying to get the message of the Gospel to kids I would not have done it like that. I would have gone out into the streets where kids hang out and just talk to them. But I am not called to the youth.

    Regarding atheism in school, I would argue that science teaches unproven theories as facts and is not open to the idea that there is a designer. But that is a whole other argument. It just depends on the point of view.

    Thanks for the conversation but where is your blog? Addy please.

    • Well, let’s reserve the discussion about theories and hypotheses for a later date, after you and I have gotten to know one another a little better, okay? It’s kinda like a coffee date versus a date that includes mixed drinks and rare steak. 🙂

      My blog? Go here: http://therearethornstoo.blogspot.com/ Welcome. I’ve been in absentia for a while on the topic of politics (I’m tired lately…studies are heavy…but you are always welcome, especially with good recipes). 😀

  17. Yeah, I had no intention of debating that with you.

    I commented on your blog.

    I post mostly Christian things but politics too. Check mine out and comment if you see something that interests you.

    ciao

    • Kathryn,

      it isnt a religious school group. The group is not associated with the school at all. They are an independant group using the school building for a meeting place in the same way (I hate even using this analogy) AA uses school buildings or church buildings. They use the building for the gathering, but are not associated with the school and so must not be student led.

      What you cited are the rules for student clubs. Like math clubs, or chess clubs. Religious clubs like this must be student organized and led.

  18. it is very simple: the recruiting for any sort of religious organization and the use of public property for such activities, and the use of public property for the meeting of such organizations should not be permitted. It is simple. No stop trying to justify and defend the unjustifiable and indefensible.

    • How many times does this need to be reposted: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

      It is freedom from a state imposed religon and the freedom to worship your personal religon anywhere you please…public or private. A school is no exception.

      The students are free to go to the meetings or not during non-instructional time. I take issue with some replies that imply that the students are too young to be considered citizens and are not afforded the rights guaranteed by the constitution.

      • Okay…then I have a question for you, Scott, since you take issue with what you perceive to be an implication that students are too young to be considered citizens with rights. What is your position on parental notification prior to a female teen obtaining an abortion?

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