Critical thinking and state/church separation won a solid victory recently when faith-based speaker Justin Lookadoo was publicly berated for a presentation described as sexist and offensive given at Richardson High School in Richardson, Texas. Students used social media to express their disapproval, adopting the hashtag #lookadouche when making statements about the backward, misogynistic views portrayed in Lookadoo’s presentation.
Subsequent to Lookadoo’s failed performance at Richardson, FFRF had sent open records requests to George West Independent School District and Canadian Independent School District, where Lookadoo was scheduled to perform on November 19 and December 11, respectively. Both school districts responded to the request with information that Lookadoo’s performances had been canceled. Whether the districts will be refunded the money they paid (over $3,000 in the case of George West) remains to be seen. Until shortly after the Richardson fiasco, Lookadoo’s website also advertised performances early next year at Eagle Mountain Independent School District, Saginaw, Texas; Tonawanda Middle and High Schools, Tonawanda, N.Y.; various schools in Scottsboro, Ala.; and a student council conference at Lufkin High School in Lufkin, Texas.
“The chilling reality is that Lookadoo’s strategy of masquerading as an expert in order to disseminate his religious ideology to public school students is not unique,” notes FFRF Constitutional Consultant Sam Grover. FFRF has received complaints about many “Lookadoo lookalikes” (no, Guy Fieri, we don’t mean you). A number of religiously-based organizations go into schools under the guise of offering sex education, anti-drug, or other secular programming. Once in the schools, these non-credentialed performers routinely insert a religious message into their talks or exploit the opportunity to speak before a captive audience to invite all students to a proselytizing evening program, usually held at a church.
FFRF has written letters about public school performances by the Christian ministry group You Can Run But You Cannot Hide (and the band Junkyard Prophet), Team Xtreme (part of Youth With A Mission), Team Impact (who has performed at Richardson ISD), The Power Team, Go Tell Ministries (with BMX biker Rick Gage), Christian hip hop musician Kryst Lyke, B-SHOC, Sons of Thunder, magician/motivational speaker Jason Alvarez (sponsored by Faith Assembly), and Youth Alive-7 Project (with Brian Pruitt Motivational), to name a few.
“It’s important that school districts remember their constitutional obligation to remain neutral toward religion and to properly research any performer before inviting them to speak before a captive student audience,” advises Grover. Such performers should not be using their invitation into a school to proselytize or to advertise their religious evening events. Too often it falls to students to be vigilant in reporting violations by these religious performers and to be vocal in expressing their disagreement with the messages being conveyed.
“FFRF has a homework assignment for school administrators: perform due diligence when bringing speakers to public schools. A little homework can go a long way toward preventing Lookadoo-like disasters,” adds FFRF staff attorney Patrick Elliott.