Cancel a proselytizing assembly, FFRF urges Colo. school district

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The Freedom From Religion Foundation is urging the Brush, Colo., school district to cancel an assembly that a proselytizing Christian group is organizing at the local high school tomorrow

Brush High School has scheduled an assembly by the Todd Becker Foundation during the school day Wednesday, Sept. 18. The Todd Becker Foundation is a Christian ministry that travels throughout the Midwest and beyond putting on assemblies in public schools with the explicit aim of converting students to its brand of evangelical Christianity: “[O]ur purpose is to draw young people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.” This evangelical mission is laid out in no uncertain terms on the foundation’s website: “The foundation’s purpose is to motivate high school students to discover their potentials and ultimately discover themselves by placing their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.”

The foundation fulfills its mission by putting on an in-school program that uses a passage from the bible to impart a strong religious message on students. The assembly focuses on two questions: “Where is your life headed?” and “Where will you go when you die?” The second question alone illustrates the deliberately proselytizing nature of the program.

Immediately following the in-school presentation, students are approached by foundation staff and local church representatives. The foundation members and church representatives ask students about their respective religious beliefs and “shar[e] with the student the gospel of Jesus Christ and point them to the hope of a new beginning found in Christ,” to quote from a group newsletter. Not only do they discuss their religious beliefs with students, students are “brought to a decision to surrender their life to Christ, or to walk away from Him.”

The Todd Becker Foundation is focused on one thing: evangelizing. When students are provoked through the assembly into talking with foundation members about very serious issues in their lives, the solution offered by the foundation is Christianity.

The district can’t allow schools used as recruiting grounds for religious groups, FFRF contends.

“It is well settled that public schools may not advance or promote religion,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line has written to Brush School District RE-2J Superintendent Bill Wilson. “It is inappropriate and unconstitutional for the district to offer religious groups unique access to its students, which signals school endorsement of religion.”

The Todd Becker Foundation has signed a questionable assembly agreement with the school district indicating that no one acting on behalf of the Todd Becker Foundation would engage in religious “proselytizing” during the presentation, in addition to other dubious provisions. However, FFRF notes the Todd Becker Foundation does engage in proselytizing. The foundation includes a bible verse in its presentation. Foundation members discuss Christianity and the bible with students after the formal presentation. Students are also invited to come back to the explicitly Christian evening presentation.

FFRF also reminds the district of its obligation to protect students from proselytizing adults while they are at school, and wishes to make it aware of the divisiveness created in the community when schools invite speakers who are not welcoming of all students.

“Such an organization should not be provided access to a captive audience of schoolkids,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “A preaching assembly violates the Constitution six ways to Sunday.”

FFRF is a national nonprofit organization with more than 30,000 members and several chapters across the country, including over 800 members and two chapters in Colorado. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Image via the Todd Becker Foundation

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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