FFRF received a complain about a local pastor/ class presenter appearing to hijack required educational programs for families about divorce in Family Court in Jackson County, Mo., to talk about himself and his faith. FFRF was told that for the three-hour course, a minister “spent two of the three required hours talking about himself, how he came to the priesthood, how he moved from congregation to congregation,” and generally about “his path to the church.” He “also handed out fliers to the class offering his religious service outside of class.” The complainant reported that “he made religious quotes and references throughout the class, and some were included in the slideshow.”
FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel wrote to the court on July 16, 2012, asking it to investigate and correct the theological bent of the secular class. Seidel questioned the minister’s credentials to lead this course, and also asked that the class be moved out of the church where he is pastor. The court took the allegations seriously and phoned to notify FFRF that an investigation is underway.
In the August 16 written reply, the court wrote that it has instructed the minister that “the issue of his religious faith and his ministry have no place in the teaching of this curriculum and we have instructed him to discontinue references to his background such that gives the appearance that the Court is promoting religion over non-religious beliefs.” The court will “monitor this issue with all” of its instructors.
The response noted that the court is also “actively looking for locations outside of church property where we can hold classes” and “will assure that participants are aware of different options for attending classes and that attendance at a classroom located on church property is not mandatory and that other options exist.”