The Freedom From Religion Foundation is insisting that an Indiana middle school close its doors to religious recruiters.
FFRF received a report that the Noblesville East Middle School in Noblesville, Ind., allows a representative of the evangelical organization Young Life to attend the school’s lunch hour to speak with students. The representative, Michael Redding, leads a religious group for middle school students called “Wyldlife.”
FFRF has written to Noblesville Schools over what it deems an inappropriate and unconstitutional opportunity for religious leaders to gain unique access to befriend students – a captive audience – and invite them to religious events.
“This predatory conduct is inappropriate and should raise many red flags,” writes FFRF Staff Attorney Ryan Jayne to Superintendent Beth Niedermeyer. “The district may not allow its schools to be used as recruiting grounds for churches during the school day. Middle school students are young, impressionable and vulnerable to social pressure, particularly pressure exerted from an adult.”
Allowing church representatives any access during school hours to recruit students for religious activities is a violation of the Establishment Clause. Public schools have an obligation to protect their students’ rights of conscience, and allowing outside adults of an evangelical Christian group into schools to promote their group demonstrates an unlawful preference not only for religion over nonreligion, but also Christianity over all other faiths.
Besides unlawfully entangling itself with a religious message, the school is alienating non-Christian students and teachers whose religious beliefs are inconsistent with the message being endorsed by the school when it creates a space for recruitment into a religious group.
“Parents trust that public schools will guard their children from indoctrination into religious ideologies,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Noblesville fails district families by allowing evangelist groups to recruit students.”
FFRF is requesting that the school district immediately discontinue allowing Redding access to students, whether to proselytize or to promote a private religious organization.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 29,000 members across the country, including 400-plus in Indiana. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.