FFRF challenges Jeffco Schools (Colo.) trips to evangelical camp

Jeffco Public
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is admonishing a Colorado school district for recently sending its students for camp to a proudly evangelical outfit

Drake Middle School, a school in the Jeffco Public Schools sytem, partnered with IdRaHaJe, a Christian evangelical camp, for a multiday outdoor education experience called “IdRaHaJe Mountain Lab School” in late February, as a parent in the school district has informed the state/church watchdog. The camp is rife with religious imagery, including Latin crosses, and religious literature was available throughout the camp. The parent rightly raised concerns about the district partnering with and giving financial support to this Christian camp. 

IdRaHaJe stands for “I’d Rather Have Jesus” and was established, as its mission and values statement says:

for the purpose of winning souls to Jesus Christ through the spreading of the Gospel, the edifying (building up) of the believers through the preaching and teaching of the Word of God, and the evangelizing of campers through witnessing and missions. The method of reaching these goals or purposes shall include all areas of service and worship that are in agreement with the principles in God’s Word, the Holy Bible until Jesus comes. 

Despite its supposed secular nature, IdRaHaJe admits that even its Mountain Lab School’s purpose is to convert students to Christianity

We are a year-round ministry in the mountains of Colorado that offers three main programs: Summer Camp, Mountain Lab School and Retreat Groups. Each of our programs has unique objectives but one main purpose, to faithfully share Jesus Christ’s love with others. We believe that when young people are at Camp they are able to consider some of the most important issues and truths in life. We have seen, time and time again, God work in the lives of campers as they discover that God loves them and has an amazing plan for their lives. We are committed to the importance of this work and being faithful stewards of the message of salvation found only in Jesus Christ. (Emphasis added.)

IdRaHaJe holds anti-LGBT views that are detrimental to Jeffco’s diverse student body, FFRF points out: 

We believe that marriage has been instituted and ordained by God, and that marriage is defined as the exclusive covenantal union of one male and one female in which such union is a lifetime commitment. (Matt. 19:4-6) We believe that same sex relationships which are romantically expressed are unacceptable according to the teaching of Scripture. 

We recognize that there are people who experience gender dysphoria. The truths we affirm on this subject are that God has immutably created each person as either male or female in His image (Genesis 1:27) and that the differentiation of the sexes, male and female, is part of the divine image in the human race (Genesis 1:27). 

And the camp was led by IdRaHaJe staff, all of whom are required to be Christians and must agree with IdRaHaJe’s doctrinal statement including the anti-LGBT views

It is well settled that public schools may not advance or promote religion, FFRF emphasizes. 

“As a school-sponsored event, a school field trip cannot include any endorsement of religion,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line writes to Jeffco Public Schools Superintendent Tracy Dorland. “Given IdRaHaJe’s overt and unambiguous Christian agenda, the district is at risk of illegally endorsing a religious message in violation of the Constitution.” 

FFRF underscores that nonreligious Americans make up the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population by religious identification — 35 percent of Americans are non-Christians, and this includes the more than one in four Americans who are religiously unaffiliated. Sending students to a Christian camp ostracizes those students and families who identify as nonreligious, practice a minority religion, or who support LGBT students and families. 

FFRF is asking that the school district cease partnering with IdRaHaJe and allowing its schools to take students to the Christian evangelical camp. IdRaHaJe is simply not an appropriate destination for public school field trips.

“This organization is a dyed-in-the-wool evangelical outfit that carries all the usual negative ideological baggage,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Any public school district mustn’t go anywhere near such a group.”

FFRF is a national nonprofit organization with more than 36,000 members and several chapters across the country, including more than 1,100 members in Colorado and chapters in Denver and Colorado Springs. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism. 

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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