Minn. public school must cancel upcoming unconstitutional assembly, FFRF urges

Image Source: Todd Becker Foundation's Annual Ministry Banquet Advertisement

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is calling on a Wheaton, Minn., public school to cancel an unconstitutional religious assembly scheduled for next week.

Wheaton High School reportedly has scheduled an assembly by the Todd Becker Foundation during the school day on Nov. 20. The Todd Becker Foundation is a Christian ministry that travels throughout the Midwest putting on assemblies in public schools with the explicit purpose of converting students to its brand of evangelical Christianity.

According to the group’s website, its purpose is to “draw young people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ” and 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 Todd Becker 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. Immediately following the in-school presentation, students are approached by Todd Becker Foundation staff and local church representatives. Foundation members and church representatives ask students about their respective religious beliefs and “share with the student the gospel of Jesus Christ and point them to the hope of a new beginning found in Christ.” 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.”

It is well-settled law that public schools may neither advance or endorse religion nor may they use instructional time to allow outside groups to proselytize to students.

“The Todd Becker Foundation is only focused on one thing, evangelizing,” FFRF attorney Christopher Line writes in his letter to Wheaton Area Schools ISD #803 Superintendent Daniel Posthumus. “When students are provoked through the assembly into talking with foundation members about very serious issues in their lives, such as physical or emotional abuse, drug or alcohol use, or other serious concerns, the only solution offered by the foundation is Christianity.”

FFRF has asked the district to cancel this event immediately and fulfill the obligation of protecting its students’ First Amendment rights.

"These shocking school assemblies are not only problematic from a constitutional perspective, but they are a deeply disturbing and harmful assault on the students' right of conscience," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

FFRF has obtained a copy of the contract that Wheaton High School Principal Martin Lanter signed on behalf of the district. The contract acknowledges that the Todd Becker Foundation will be having private conversations with students immediately following the assembly where they will be “referencing Bible passages and praying with or for students.” The contract prevents the district from restricting any member or representative of the Todd Becker Foundation from being able to freely pray and proselytize to students, and would require the district to pay $6,215 if they choose to cancel this assembly for any reason other than a weather emergency or a school emergency.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with 30,000 members and several chapters across the country, including more than 600 members and a chapter in Minnesota. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between church and state, 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.

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator

FFRF is a member of the Secular Coalition for America

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