The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center just sent a letter to the Douglas County School District in Colorado detailing extensive evidence that district officials at Highlands Ranch High School and Cougar Run Elementary School, in their capacities as district employees, were promoting Christianity and raising money for a Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ mission trip.
The FCA made it clear why they were going to Guatemala: “… our group’s primary goal is to share the love and hope of Jesus.” Which is fine. They’re allowed to do that. But make no mistake: This trip, by their own admission, was about proselytizing, first and foremost.
Because this is a trip to preach the Gospel, the schools cannot support or raise money for those groups, even if the students had a secondary, more noble, goal of handing out toiletries and hygiene bags.
So this flyer that was given to all students and parents at the elementary school is a problem:
The flyer makes clear that the trip is sponsored both by the Christian student group (FCA) and the public school sixth grade class. The school made abundantly clear that it was supporting the mission trip in connection with the official sixth grade “Latin American social studies curriculum.”
The AHLC also documents an email sent by a school official to parents urging them to donate supplies and money, which including a bit about how sales of the school’s news publication would go toward the trip. They also noted a blog post written by another teacher (in that capacity) writing about the purpose of the trip: “The heart of this journey is to share, celebrate, and honor Christ.”
If the schools wanted to donate to charity, there are plenty of non-Christian ways to do it. It’s not like a mission trip was the only option.
“Public schools are not in the business of proselytizing Christianity,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “This school is not only misusing taxpayer dollars, it’s infringing on the rights of all non-Christian students.”
Monica Miller, an attorney with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, said, “School officials are not permitted to show preferential treatment toward any religious student group, let alone fundraise for mission trips to proselytize Christianity.”
The letter calls for the school district to cease its active participation in the conversion efforts of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, as well as to terminate any other similar activity.
I’m astonished that none of the administrators at either school saw fit to put a stop to this. How aloof do they have to be not to notice the problem?
The AHA is giving the district an easy out — all it has to do is promise never to do this again. Given how egregious these violations were, the district should be thankful this is all the AHA wants.