FFRF has ended unconstitutional religious promotion within a Chicago suburb school district.
A concerned community member of Community Consolidated School District 15 reported to FFRF that the district allows outside adults to engage in one-on-one meetings with students at several district elementary schools, usually during lunch. The adults are affiliated with a faith-based organization named Kids Hope USA that connects “one church” with public schools under the guise of mentorship. Kids Hope USA believes the most effective aspect of its program is that it prays for students.
While the adults purportedly discuss only secular topics with students, and do not inform students that “prayer partners” are secretly praying for them, FFRF was informed that these adults had been abusing their access to students by advertising for a religious event.
In a letter sent to Superintendent Scott Thompson, FFRF informed the district that, in fact, Kids Hope USA’s website suggests that promoting religious events is a fundamental goal of its program: “Principals are advised that parents may choose to someday send their children to events at the church, only after parental permission is granted.”
FFRF warned the district that, regardless of parental permission, it is inappropriate and unconstitutional for a public school district to allow church representatives unique access to invite students to religious events, during the school day on school property, after developing a personal one-on-one relationship with those students.
“No outside adults should be provided carte blanche access to minors — a captive audience — in a public school,” wrote FFRF Staff Attorney Ryan Jayne to Thompson. “The district may not allow its schools to be used as recruiting grounds for churches during the school day.”
The district responded to FFRF with assurances that the violation would not recur.
“The district is updating its own administrative procedures to ensure that all volunteer mentors are informed that they must refrain from praying or proselytizing while at school, including encouraging students to attend religious events,” a legal representative of the district informed FFRF.