You would think a hunting safety class run by the state of New Hampshire would be secular in nature… but the Freedom From Religion Foundation says that a class attended by a citizen resembled a church service.
The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department facilitates hunter safety classes throughout New Hampshire. A person who contacted FFRF attended a class on April 6-8 hosted by the Heritage Free Will Baptist Church in Laconia, N.H. The complainant reported that everyone who attended the class received religious flyers with prayers and information about church services. A pastor taught this class. The religious materials were enclosed with all of the official hunter’s safety documents and study packets.
These proselytizing handouts are demeaning to non-Christians and nonbelievers, FFRF points out. Such a misuse of a state function for sectarian purposes is unconscionable.
“It is a fundamental principle of Establishment Clause jurisprudence that a government entity cannot in any way endorse religion,” FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor write to Glenn Normandeau, executive director of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. “Allowing churches to distribute their religious literature through a class co-sponsored by New Hampshire Fish and Game constitutes government endorsement and advancement of religion.”
The fact that a church hosted this event is irrelevant. A state-sponsored class could theoretically take place in a church as long as it’s still secular in nature. This wasn’t.
“New Hampshire owes its substantial portion of non-Christians and nonbelievers not to allow the blatant imposition of religiosity during a state-organized training course,” says Gaylor. “Churches cannot be permitted to take advantage of a captive audience in this manner.”
You would think the least religious state in the country would be a little better about respecting church/state separation. The question now is how state officials will respond. Will the class be cleaned up or canceled… or will they do nothing?
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