FFRF stops LifeWise from recruiting in Ohio school (May 2024)

FFRF has made sure students in Fredericktown, Ohio, will not be pressured to participate in an evangelical release time bible study program.

A concerned district community member informed FFRF that schools within the district had been promoting and encouraging students to attend LifeWise Academy’s release time bible study classes.

FFRF was informed that schools in Fredericktown Local School District allowed representatives of LifeWise to come into the schools last fall to promote LifeWise and recruit students. In one instance, Fredericktown Elementary School’s principal, Matthew Caputo, led LifeWise’s representatives around the school during the school day and allowed representatives to recruit elementary school students to attend LifeWise’s bible classes.

Additionally, when a student informed one of LifeWise’s representatives that they are Hindu, the representative responded by telling the student that they needed Jesus and to ask their parents to come to LifeWise’s classes. Reportedly, LifeWise’s representatives pressure students to ask their parents for permission to attend these classes.

FFRF Anne Nicol Gaylor Legal Fellow Sammi Lawrence wrote to the district and demanded that it ensure its schools cease illegally promoting and encouraging student attendance at this evangelical Christian bible study class.

After months of silence, FFRF received an email from District Superintendent Gary Chapman.

“The district promptly investigated the allegations detailed by FFRF in your letter dated Oct. 25, 2023. Following the investigation, we reminded administrators to refrain from actions that could be viewed as promoting or discouraging participation in any religious release time program,” Chapman wrote. “In addition, the district reaffirmed its policies with the local LifeWise officials, including the prohibition of soliciting student participation during school hours or at school-sponsored events.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation