The Freedom From Religion Foundation will return to Middleton High School, Wis., tomorrow to counter the weekly "Jesus Lunch" provided by Christian parents.
"A generous Middleton FFRF member has provided a donation toward providing pizza for the protesting students," explains Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president.
"We also wish to thank Ian's Pizza for providing several free pizza pies for the students."
FFRF Legal Fellow Ryan Jayne wrote an April 21 letter to the Middleton City Council pointing out last Tuesday's "near-melee during the 'Jesus Lunch' was a lesson in why religion does not belong in public schools." The Jesus Lunch turns the majority into "insiders" and the minority into "outsiders."
The school leases Firemen's Park, which abuts the back entrance and contains a pavilion. But the city has argued that an ambiguity in the lease permits the evangelists to set up shop during school hours. FFRF says the city should clarify that the school has exclusive use of the park during the school day, or amend the lease.
"As noted last week, we don't think any adults, whether missionaries or atheists, should be allowed to move in upon what is essentially a captive audience of students," Gaylor adds. "But if the 'Jesus Lunches' aren't going to be stopped, the Freedom From Religion Foundation plans to be there too, providing some balance — and some fuel to the protesters."
The Madison, Wis.-based organization works to keep state and church separate, and has more than 23,700 members nationwide, including 1.300 members throughout Wisconsin.
Please contact the city of Middleton, Wis., to stop the religious misuse of a public park.
For the past couple of years, a parents' group has held weekly lunches at the Fireman's Memorial Park, adjacent to the Middleton High School, in which organizers have handed out bibles, engaged in proselytization and given out free food—all contrary to the wishes of the Middleton-Cross Plains School District. In doing so, the parents are violating a city agreement that gives the district the right to decide use of the park.
The Middleton-Cross Plains School District, which opposes the "Jesus Lunches," leases the park during the day. The lease says that the school has "the right to enforce all or any part of [school] rules and regulations ... affecting students." So, the school is correct in its opposition to the misuse of the park by the lunch organizers.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has written to the city in support of the School District.
Please write a letter to your editor, comment on news sites, and utilize social media to educate everyone about the issue.
Personalize your statement if possible, or feel free to cut and paste the wording below. If you live in the area, please identify yourself as a Middleton resident and taxpayer.
I'm contacting you about the misuse of Fireman's Memorial Park for the weekly "Jesus Lunches." These lunches have become divisive and contentious events that separate the students into Christian believers and nonbelievers. The religious recruitment underlying the event is improper in a space controlled by a public school. Plus, there are health and safety issues involved.
The city of Middleton should work with the School District to remove any ambiguity in the lease agreement that has allowed for this misuse. The simplest option is to allow the district exclusive use of the park, a very reasonable option, since the park abuts the Middleton High School.
No group should be allowed to pit Middleton students against each other.