FFRF objects to religious public school events

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is objecting to two deeply religious events held at a Kansas public school.

FFRF recently learned that late last year, Impact World Tour organized two meetings at the Spring Hill Middle School in Spring Hill, Kan., that were heavily evangelical in nature. Tickets were handed out to the students, but the actual theme of the programs was concealed. When a parent (a complainant to FFRF) went to the events' website, the information did not reveal their religious nature.

An Impact World Tour gathering at the school attended by a student (daughter of the complainant) was so religious that she remarked afterward: "It was a cult." The presenters asked the audience to come to the front and "surrender their lives to Jesus." Organizers also attempted to coerce the students to take home a bible. The school principal was in attendance.

Spring Hill School District was involved in other ways. Records obtained by FFRF show that each school principal in the district requested that these assemblies be held. The request forms for these assemblies suggest that schools donate between $250 and $500 to Impact World Tour. At least one school made a donation to Impact World Tour.

The events are organized by Youth With A Mission, whose campaigns, according to the group's own website, are "focused on evangelizing the world via strategies such as Impact World Tour and discipling the world through schools and neighborhood centers." The organization tends to put on a secular version during the school day to mislead parents and students, then evangelizes during the evening assemblies.

"While public schools certainly may host groups that address important or motivational topics, those events cannot be tied to afterschool religious revivals," writes FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel in a letter to Wayne Burke, superintendent of the Spring Hill School District. "In Lee vs. Weisman, the U.S. Supreme Court extended the prohibition of school endorsement of religion beyond the classroom to all school functions." 

The fundraising efforts for these evangelical shows by Spring Hill School District principals are also troubling, FFRF contends.

"A government entity cannot make an expenditure that advances religion or that entangles it with religion," Seidel adds. "Public money cannot subsidize an afterschool religious event. Direct in-kind or cash contributions that aid religious organizations are unconstitutional."

FRFF is asking for assurances in writing from the Spring Hill School District that such unconstitutional violations will not recur.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a state/church separation watchdog group with 23,000 members nationally, including Kansas supporters.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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FFRF is a member of the Secular Coalition for America

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