Stop preachy group in Greenville, N.C., school, FFRF insists

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is protesting unconstitutional religious proselytizing in the Pitt County Schools system

A concerned parent has contacted the national state/church watchdog to report that adults from WyldLife, a Christian organization, regularly recruited students last school year during the lunch hour at Hope Middle School in Greenville, N.C. WyldLife is branch of Young Life, an organization whose goal is to “personally impact area teenagers and to point them to a ​relationship with a God,” according to the website. WyldLife specifically targets middle school students in order to “model and express God’s love to our young friends.”

Hope Middle School reportedly has given permission to adults from WyldLife to preach to students at lunchtime every Monday and recruit for their religious events. One of these WyldLife representatives, who apparently collected contact information from middle school students, attempted to contact a child after school hours. It is especially concerning that WyldLife representatives are seeking the cellphone numbers of students and having unmonitored conversations with impressionable children.

“It is well settled that public schools may not advance or promote religion,” FFRF Senior Counsel Patrick Elliot writes to Pitt County Schools Superintendent Ethan Lenker. “Moreover, ‘the preservation and transmission of religious beliefs and worship is a responsibility and a choice committed to the private sphere,’” as the U.S. Supreme Court has said.

It is inappropriate and unconstitutional for the district to offer youth ministers unique access to befriend and proselytize students during the school day on school property, FFRF emphasizes. No outside adults should be provided carte blanche access to minors — a captive audience — in a public school.

Allowing ministers weekly access to proselytize and recruit students during school hours is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Permitting a Christian group access to proselytize students demonstrates an unlawful preference not only for religion over nonreligion, but also Christianity over other faiths. When the school grants WyldLife ministers access to students, it advances WyldLife's mission of proselytizing.

Pitt County Schools must immediately stop allowing adults from WyldLife contact with students during the school day, FFRF is insisting.

“Giving a Christian proselytizing group privileged entry to a public school flies in the face of constitutional propriety,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “It is inappropriate to allow any outside adults access to a captive audience of young students — much less to invite in missionaries.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 30,000 members and several chapters across the country, including over 600 members and a chapter in North Carolina. Our purpose is to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

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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