FFRF ousts teachers from ‘Kids for Christ’ clubs

College Oaks Elementary School in Lake Charles, La., and High Mount School in Swansea, Ill., have both barred teachers from leading bible clubs for students after getting FFRF complaints.

FFRF wrote to Calcasieu Parish Public Schools on Jan. 9 after a concerned parent reported that College Oaks Elementary was recruiting students for the bible club Kids for Christ. All the club’s logistics were handled by College Oaks teacher Kristen Shepherd, who encouraged other staff to announce club meetings in their classrooms, according to public email records obtained by FFRF.

Reminders about Kids for Christ meetings were sent home with students, and one teacher directly called a parent to ask permission for a student to attend the club. The school also sold children’s bibles and T-shirts reading, “We are Christians at College Oaks.” Shepherd distributed bibles to students, as well as order forms for Kids for Christ merchandise.

“Given the high level of faculty involvement in the organization and content of the Kids for Christ bible club, plus the location of the meetings and regular faculty promotion of the club, a reasonable student or parent will perceive this religious club as ‘stamped with her school’s seal of approval,'” wrote FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover.

Calcasieu Parish Schools’ attorney Gregory Balfour responded Jan. 26, assuring FFRF that staff were told not to hand out bibles, wear bible club T-shirts at school or be involved in promoting or leading the club. “School staff were also reminded that they may not ‘pressure’ students to join the club,” he said.

In a similar situation in Illinois’s High Mount School District 116, the district sent emails to K-8 students and their parents at High Mount School to promote a new Kids for Christ group. The district email described the club as “a permanent program” that “operates in cooperation with local schools.”

In a Feb. 4 letter to school attorney William Stiehl Jr., Grover wrote: “All HMS staff should be reminded that their duties under the Establishment Clause prohibit them from actively promoting a religious club while acting in their official capacities as district employees.”

Stiehl responded the next day: “The employee who sent the emails has been advised that emails which appear to promote or sponsor a religious organization may not be sent using the High Mount email system or on High Mount letterhead.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation