FFRF implores Oklahoma school to nix evangelical event


The Freedom From Religion Foundation is urging an Oklahoma public high school to cancel an upcoming event that an evangelical group is organizing there.

Newcastle High School has scheduled an assembly by the Todd Becker Foundation during the school day on Wednesday, April 4. The Foundation is a Christian ministry that puts on assemblies in public schools with the purpose of converting students to its brand of Christianity. This mission is laid out in no uncertain terms on its 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 this mission by arranging an in-school program that uses a passage from the bible to impart a strong religious message to students (without explicitly telling them that they should follow Christianity). 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 presentation, students are approached by Foundation staff and local clergy. The Foundation members and clergy ask students about their 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.” Students are then “brought to a decision to surrender their life to Christ, or to walk away from Him.” 

While students are encouraged and manipulated into talking with Foundation members about very personal issues in their lives, such as physical or emotional or drug abuse, the single solution offered by the Foundation is Christianity.

“It is well settled that public schools may not advance or promote religion,” FFRF Legal Fellow Chris Line writes to Newcastle Public Schools Superintendent Tony O’Brien. “It is inappropriate and unconstitutional for the district to offer religious groups unique access to its students, which signals school endorsement of religion.” 

Even if the school allows students to opt out of this religious programming, permitting such programming in a public school is still unconstitutional, FFRF points out. When children choose not to attend such an event because of the proselytizing nature, their absence is obvious, and the ostracism they suffer is precisely what the courts have sought to prevent.

Last December, The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent letters of warning and a report to 350 school districts across the United States cautioning against allowing the Todd Becker Foundation into public schools to convert students. 

The Todd Becker Foundation has been providing a signed agreement indicating that no one acting on behalf of the Todd Becker Foundation would engage in proselytizing during the presentation. This type of agreement does not protect the district from the legal ramifications of religious promotion that occurs during or immediately following the assembly. More importantly, the Todd Becker Foundation does engage in proselytizing. The Foundation includes a bible verse in its presentation, focuses on where students “will go” when they die, Foundation members discuss Christianity and the bible with students after the formal presentation, and students are invited to come back to an explicitly Christian evening presentation.

“It’s for good reason that the Todd Becker Foundation has been a major focus of our work recently — it engages in despicable behavior involving a captive audience of students,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Access to our students is the last thing it should be granted.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit with more than 32,000 members across the country, including in Oklahoma. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on nontheism.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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