The state/church watchdog has been informed that on April 12, a teacher at Cigarroa High School in Laredo, Texas, brought Time to Revive, a religious ministry, to the school to preach and proselytize students. The ministry reportedly handed out bibles to students, as well as multicolored bracelets with various biblical references. Students were told if they didn’t pray they were going to hell. Members of the ministry attempted faith healings and prayed over students, it has also been reported.
Time to Revive is an avowed evangelical ministry that “travels throughout the United States, awakening the Church from her sleepy state and equipping the saints for Christ’s return.” The ministry “partners with the local Church in each community, bringing believers together across denominational lines and inspiring them to obey the Great Commission to go in the power of the Holy Spirit and make disciples.”
The Laredo Independent School District must immediately cease allowing religious leaders to utilize its public schools to proselytize and recruit students, FFRF insists. Permitting an evangelical ministry regular, or even one-time, access to proselytize and recruit students for religious activities is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
“Public schools are not an appropriate place for outside adults to convince students to convert to their beliefs or attend their church,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line writes to Laredo ISD Superintendent Sylvia Rios. “This recruitment constitutes ‘a utilization of the tax-established and tax-supported public school system to aid religious groups to spread their faith,’” to quote the Supreme Court in the landmark McCollum v. Board of Education (1948) case.
It is inappropriate and unconstitutional for the school district to offer church leaders unique access to preach and proselytize students during school hours on school property, FFRF emphasizes. When a school allows church representatives to recruit students for the church, it has unconstitutionally entangled itself with a religious message, in this case Christian. This practice alienates those non-Christian students, teachers, and members of the public whose religious beliefs are inconsistent with the message being disseminated by the school, including the 30 percent of U.S. teenagers who identify as religiously unaffiliated.
FFRF recently filed a lawsuit against Cabell County Schools in West Virginia on behalf of several parents and students after the school district allowed an evangelical preacher to hold a religious revival for students during the school day. The event that took place at Cigarroa High School was very similar to the event held in Cabell County.
FFRF is urging the district to immediately investigate this complaint and ensure that Time to Revive (or any other religious ministry) is no longer allowed to proselytize to students on school property during the school day.
“This is a particularly troubling constitutional violation,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The level of access the school district allowed to the ministry’s bizarrely behaving emissaries is outrageous.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 36,000 members and several chapters across the country, including over 1,500 members and a local chapter in Texas. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.