Controversy over divisive group should serve as a warning to other schools

Advice to schools: Junk Christian ministry assemblies

The Superintendent of Dunkerton Community Schools in Iowa learned a valuable lesson on March 8th after students, parents, and teachers would not tolerate offensive religious messages presented at a junior and senior high school assembly by the band Junkyard Prophet. The band is a part of the controversial Christian ministry group, You Can Run But You Cannot Hide. Its mission is: “To reshape America by re-directing the current and future generations both morally and spiritually through education, media, and the Judeo-Christian values found in our U.S. Constitution.”

Dunkerton students complained that presenters showed pictures of aborted fetuses and discussed homosexuality. During a portion of the program, speakers segregated boys, girls, and teachers in order to give separate messages to each. The boys were instructed on the group’s thoughts on the Constitution. Girls reported that their talk was about “purity” and against abortion. Several offended teachers walked out of the teacher-only session. Because of the controversy, Supt. Jim Stanton held an assembly later in the day. He told students that a message of intolerance was not in line with the values of Dunkerton Community Schools.

Other schools should take notice, advises the Freedom From Religion Foundation. You Can Run But You Cannot Hide and other youth ministry groups go into schools under the guise of offering anti-drug or other secular programming. Once they are in school, the ministers routinely insert a religious message or invite all students to a proselytizing evening program. “As Dunkerton parents have pointed out, it would have taken only a quick a visit to the group’s website to see that its public school programming is inappropriate and unconstitutional,” noted Patrick Elliott, FFRF Staff Attorney.

“The hate-filled and homophobic messages from You Can Run But You Cannot Hide’s notorious founder, Bradlee Dean, are well documented. He is the only person in the history of the Minnesota House of Representatives to have an invocation removed from the House’s official record,” Elliott added. FFRF complained about his offensive prayer and has worked to investigate his unconstitutional school programming (as noted in the New York Times). Another Iowa school district, Twin Cedars Community School District, assured FFRF last year that Dean’s group would not return to its schools.

FFRF is requesting records from Dunkerton to learn more about what the school knew beforehand and how much it paid.

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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