The American Humanist Association’s Apignini Humanist Legal Center has sent a letter to a school in Colorado warning them that they may face a lawsuit if they do not stop promoting and sponsoring religious mission trips abroad. The press release from the group says:
The letter claims that the public school district unconstitutionally sponsored a Christian mission trip, in partnership with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and another Christian organization, Adventures in Missions™, the primary purpose of which was to proselytize Christianity in Guatemala. The school district’s logo appeared on a website promoting the trip, and a school official used her school email account to ask parents to make donations to the mission trip. The school also sent out flyers promoting the Christian Mission Trip and organized a school-wide donation drive for the trip.
“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.”
In the flyers, the school made clear that the Mission Trip was part of the formal sixth grade curriculum. A public school teacher joined the high school children on the Mission Trip and actively participated in their conversion efforts. In addition to these violations, proceeds from the sale of Press Paws, the school’s official news publication, were given to the Christian student club coordinating the trip. These actions not only violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment but also the Colorado Constitution and the Equal Access Act, which prohibits public schools from sponsoring religious student club activity.
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 school would be wise to take this seriously. They would almost certainly lose a lawsuit if one is filed.