FFRF objects to evangelist’s speech at Mich. school

Bob Lenz Flier

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has sent a letter of complaint and records request to Iron Mountain Public Schools in Iron Mountain, Mich., after the school district allowed speaker Bob Lenz to use a presentation during school hours to recruit students to attend a later religious event at a church.

Lenz is part of the company Life Promotions, which is based in Appleton, Wis. He employs a common evangelical method to recruit public school students to religious programming, giving a supposedly secular presentation during the school day where he passes out fliers advertising pizza, prize drawings, or other incentives to attend a religious event later that evening. 

At an auditorium event during the school day on March 2, Lenz gave a talk touted as “a positive message of hope and encouragement,” accompanied by an illusionist. However, he also passed out fliers advertising free pizza and a raffle at a church event later that night, telling students to “Bring a friend!” Life Promotions’ website explicitly states that the group “strive[s] to reach youth before the age of 18.” Lenz says he has been speaking to public schools for over 30 years.

FFRF sent Iron Mountain Public Schools a letter of complaint yesterday, objecting to the district’s hosting of a speaker whose obvious intent was to proselytize students to a later church event. “Students are a vulnerable and captive audience, and Iron Mountain High School allowed Lenz to take advantage of the students’ captivity to recruit them to come to a Christian event later that night,” wrote Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert. “It is inappropriate to take away instructional time from students to expose them to a proselytizing speaker, regardless of any secular message the group claims to be promoting.”

Lenz brags on Facebook about the percent of students who returned for the religious program and the number who
“received Jesus” after a March 9 presentation in public schools in Girard, Kan. Click image to view post on Facebook.

A promotional video for Life Promotions claims that America’s youth are experiencing a “spiritual poverty,” lamenting that less than 18% of youth attend church regularly. “Two out of three people who begin their relationship with Christ and fill that spiritual void will do so before they’re 18,” says the video, assuring watchers, “We can reach them before it’s too late.” It also touts that Lenz travels the country “sharing life principles and the love of Jesus, offering hope for this life and the next.”

The video also takes a bizarre, tone-deaf attitude towards poverty, asking viewers, “Did you know many of America’s youth are among the poorest in the world?” with a graphic of a person holding out a bowl. The hungry person is then “painted” over, as the narrator announces, “Not a physical poverty, a spiritual poverty!” 

“This is very callous, given that 16 million U.S. children live below the actual poverty line,” noted FFRF Co-President Dan Barker.

At the end of the video, the narrator asks viewers to donate, assuring donors that they won’t be providing any actual charitable relief: “You may not offer a meal, but you’ll offer meaning. You may not provide a home, but you’ll provide hope.”

FFRF also sent a records request to the district, seeking information about whether the school paid Lenz, and whether parents were notified about the presentation.

FFRF is a national nonprofit state/church watchdog with more than 22,000 members, including nearly 600 members in Michigan and over 1,300 in Wisconsin.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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