FFRF’s complaint letter made the city of Casselberry, Fla., cancel a planned partnership with an evangelical Christian church. Camp Casselberry, a city-run youth program, was scheduled to partner with Church Together for “Friday Fun Day” at a park June 26. Pastor Andy Searles and church volunteers planned to participate in and facilitate the event.
When Searles partnered with Camp Casselberry in 2014, his message to campers reportedly was to be good at three aspects of life: physical, mental and spiritual. Searles allegedly likened being “spiritually good” to being “scripturally good.”
“Our concern is that Mr. Searles and church volunteers will take this opportunity to again proselytize Camp Casselberry campers,” wrote Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel in a June 24 letter.
“Paid or not, Mr. Searles and the church volunteers are bound by the First Amendment like any other government employee and must remain neutral toward religion during their participation in Camp Casselberry,” said Seidel.
A Church Together newsletter obtained by FFRF [see graphic] confirmed that the church would not be participating. The church also urged congregants to pray for people connected with FFRF.
“They can pray for us all they want, so long as they don’t force that prayer on other people’s children,” commented Seidel.
Church Together has a history of proselytizing in secular settings. It was recently known as the Venue Church at South Seminole, one of three Venue Churches in the Orlando area, whose stated goal is “permanently planting churches in Central Florida Schools.” The churches have recently split and been renamed but continue to meet in Orange County Public Schools.
FFRF has tangled repeatedly with Venue churches, and especially with Venue founder Todd Lamphere, particularly for his relationship with Apopka High School. FFRF has learned that Lamphere, pastor at Venue’s flagship church at Apopka, was reportedly forced to resign in June as pastor at the flagship church in Apopka for undisclosed reasons. All mention of him has been scrubbed from the church’s website.
FFRF also previously wrote to Casselberry Mayor Charlene Glancy after she appeared in a church promotional video in her official capacity as mayor.