ACLU Gets Preacher Out of School Cafeteria

Here’s one of those cases where I’m just astonished that school officials could possibly have thought they were complying with the law. A school in Ft. Wayne, Indiana was allowing a local youth minister to come to the school cafeteria during lunch and minister to kids.

John and Linda Buchanan, whose 11-year-old daughter attends Summit Middle School in For Wayne, sued the Southwest Allen County school district in U.S. District Court in Fort Wayne, claiming the practice violated the First Amendment. The family is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana.

The lawsuit claimed a youth pastor from a church attended by many local families regularly visited lunch at Summit Middle School, standing in a “prominent location” in the lunchroom and talking with students who are required to eat there. The minister was allowed to hand out materials and move from table to table, talking with children, the claim states. The suit does not specify whether the materials were religious in nature.

“Many of the children recognize him as a religious leader. No other persons who are not associated with the school are allowed to stand in the lunchroom like this. This is coercive and represents an endorsement of religion,” the complaint alleges.

The school apparently caved in quickly, reversing their policy within a half hour of the suit being filed. But why the hell did they think this was okay in the first place? I’d bet that they didn’t. They probably knew it was illegal but didn’t care, knowing that the only way they get caught is if someone complains.

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  • Gvlgeologist, FCD

    Without knowing details, I can sumrise that they were asked if this was OK by the minister, and thought that there would be blowback if they did not allow it, from their more religious parents. Rather than stand up for what was right (and legal), they caved. They might even have hoped that someone would complain, figuring that that would give them justification to stop the practice.

    I know, no data yet in this case, but I’ve heard of many cases where, when a parent complains about something, a school board will quickly cave rather than start any sort of controversy. School boards are generally elected, and I’m sure that they’d rather say, “we were forced to stop the practice” than, “we took it upon ourselves to prevent this practice because of that nasty old constitution.”

  • And that’s why we have to keep playing whackamole with these things.

  • We seriously need some kind of nation-wide ad campaign to alert/education children to these issues – in many cases, the kids are just oblivious to the legalities, and in many cases, goes unreported because they’re the only ones to observe the infractions.

    I really think students, if they knew this was something the school could be challenged against, would take that baton and run with it.

  • Gvlgeologist, FCD

    I was wondering if Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant) was responding to me or the OP, and it occurred to me that it hardly matters; the result is that no matter WHY these events occur, we’ll always have to play “whackamole with these things.”

  • We seriously need some kind of nation-wide ad campaign to alert/education children to these issues

    Sounds like the kind of thing that could be done via facebook and other social media.

    Makes me wonder, come to think of it, why atheist organizations are wasting their time with ads on buses and billboard when they could be doing funny, attractive, meme-seeding programmes via the internets.

  • Marcus

    That’s not a bad idea. Throw up a simple webpage with the basics spelled out, and Facebook ads to the right demographics. It would be fairly cheap, relatively speaking.

    The question is whether the ACLU/AU/FFRF/MAAF have the capacity to handle the volume.

  • Sideshow Bill

    And now the “community” will blow up about the “repression” of their religious rights and force the school to spend money defending itself….

  • kermit.

    …whose 11-year-old daughter attends Summit Middle School in For Wayne…

    A girl who is real popular right now among the troglodytes in training at her school. This is why the schools hope they can get away with this; they have their own built-in extralegal Jesus enforcers in their own school population. Of course this requires a certain critical mass. In some schools districts the girl would not face significant pressure (like insults, threats, and vandalism). I hope she sees no trouble here.

  • bmiller

    Ah my sweet hometown. Southwest Allen County is also the more solidly…white flight/Republican/upper middle class part of town, well suited for megachurches and the prosperity gospel.

    Thank Aluthia I live in California now. It’s not even a matter of local economics, my home town started making terrible urban planning decisions 50 years ago and the place is just GRIM now.

  • Stevarious, Public Health Problem

    They probably knew it was illegal but didn’t care, knowing that the only way they get caught is if someone complains.

    They were doubtless relying on the HUGE levels of social pressure involved in keeping people from reporting it.