FFRF sounds alarm about preaching in Missouri schools


The Freedom From Religion Foundation is sounding the constitutional alarm about shockingly religious indoctrination events that have occurred at a number of Missouri public high schools.

Bolivar High School and Stockton High School have recently invited Bob Holmes, the “one man volleyball team,” to give presentations to their student bodies. Holmes was at Bolivar High accompanied by representatives of the Agape Baptist Church of Stockton, Mo., who took pictures and video of the event. A post on the “Agape Baptist Church of Stockton Missouri” Facebook page from March 16 says: “the Lord allowed us [the Church] to get into Bolivar High School, Stockton High School, and Stockton Middle School through Bro. Holmes ministry to the public schools.” This same post refers to him as “Evangelist Bob Holmes,” “a friend of Agape for many years now.”

The assembly was held in the Bolivar High School gymnasium on Feb. 20 from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., which is during regular instructional hours, and at the Stockton High School on Feb. 22 during the school day and in the evening. At the Bolivar High event, Holmes took several opportunities to preach his Christian faith to the captive student audience, proclaiming that “Jesus Christ is my lord and savior, and I’m not ashamed to tell you that.” He also recounted a highly distasteful twist on a story about a troubled teenager who turned her life around after accepting Jesus as her savior:

“Another girl was molested in thirteen foster homes. And because she got forgiven by the Lord Jesus, she went to every one of her child molesters and said, ‘I forgive you because I got forgiven by my wonderful savior.'”

It is irresponsible that this story makes it appear that victims of child sexual abuse must “forgive” assailants. At the end of the Bolivar High assembly, Holmes invited everyone to hear “part two” of his message the following Thursday night at Stockton High School. The event at Stockton High School was also advertised through flyers posted on the walls of the Bolivar High School. The same flyer was posted on the Agape Baptist Church Facebook page on Feb. 16, as well.

Neither Holmes’ announcement nor the flyers mentioned that the evening Stockton High School event was a full-scale Christian revival in cooperation with Agape Baptist Church. Holmes preached a sermon here that recounted the crucifixion in gruesome detail. He also told the students they “have a soul that’s going to go on forever, and ever, and ever, either in heaven or hell. And I see you hanging over a lake of fire ready to fall in unless you find forgiveness.” He closed his evening Stockton presentation by asking the audience to bow their heads in prayer and receive Jesus as their savior. The Agape Baptist Church Facebook page declared: “The Lord used Bro. Holmes in a great way and as a result, 81 people left the evening rally having accepted Christ as Lord and savior.”

At both events, Holmes declared his intention to bring his message to every public school in Missouri. At Stockton, he announced that “there are some people right now that are working” to make this happen, including “the principal that I was at [sic] in Bolivar and here.”

It would only require a cursory Google search to verify Holmes’ proselytizing agenda. His own website refers to his work as a “ministry,” and his official Facebook page is replete with references to his evangelism. In a self-authored biography page on “youthpastor.com,” Holmes openly discusses his “evangelism” in public schools. Holmes has candidly proclaimed his intent is to convert other peoples’ children to Christianity: “Why do I go to 5,000 schools? … I don’t do it for volleyball, I do it because I’ve got an absolute truth [holds up a bible] and I can save somebody.” Bob Holmes is not an entertainer or a motivational speaker; he is a missionary.

Considering this glut of information, coupled with Holmes’ endorsement and accompaniment by members of Agape Baptist Church, it is inexplicable how the Bolivar and Stockton events could have been approved.

“It is inappropriate to take away instructional time from students to expose them to a Christian missionary, regardless of any secular message the speaker claims to be promoting,” writes FFRF Legal Fellow Colin McNamara to the school districts. “A child’s religious or nonreligious upbringing is a personal matter between the child and their parents. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that public schools may not be co-opted, either by staff or outside adults, to proselytize students.” 

FFRF requests that there be no more school sponsorship of inappropriate and unconstitutional assemblies. The state/church watchdog is seeking specific assurances that Bob Holmes will not be welcomed to speak at any district schools in the future and is requesting copies of records pertaining to the school districts and Holmes.

“It’s absolutely outrageous that someone with the track record of Bob Holmes has been invited at a number of Missouri high schools,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “His proselytizing is so over the top in a public school setting that this isn’t even a close call for school officials.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with over 32,000 members across the country, including nearly 400 members in Missouri. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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