Far from being a yearly spontaneous eruption of religiosity by devout public school students, the event has been carefully nurtured and orchestrated by youth pastors, churches and national religious associations.
The Baptist General Convention of Texas, in Dallas, Texas, owns the trademark for the See You at the Pole™ name and event. Student Discipleship Ministries in Burleson, Texas, creates and distributes promotional materials and videos. The San Diego-based National Network of Youth Ministries coordinates the promotion and media relations. This is spontaneously student led?
But students are free, under current interpretations of the law governing student free expression and public schools, to plan or attend such an event outside school hours.
There are parameters. Even the “See You at the Pole” adult promoters admit that school officials may neither encourage nor discourage participation. If the event is organized by a bonafide student club, then the club may use the same channels to publicize the event that are permitted any other student club. But no special privileges, under the Equal Access Act passed by Congress, may be granted to religious student clubs. If you see abuses relating to your school’s “See you at the Pole” gathering, complain to the proper school authorities.
It is unfortunate that churches and evangelizing groups increasingly view public schools as ripe recruitment territory. Various religious websites offer primitive advice to students about the “See You at the Pole” event, telling them to “claim God’s power over Satan’s influence” and to “reach out to your classmates who do not know God’s love and forgiveness.” Encouraging students to evangelize other students, promoting the ostentatious display of piety at school, breeds divisiveness and bullying, and can build walls between public school students who would otherwise get along. Why can’t students pray at home and at church?
For more information on Equal Access Act violations, see FFRF's Religious and Freethought Club FAQ.