AHA Warns School on Mission Trips

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.

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  • throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble

    What a waste of jet fuel mission trips are.

  • matty1

    I was going to say that Guatemala Is already Christian but I imagine they don’t count Catholic especially Catholics as far from the mainstream. Let’s hope Maximon turns their rum to water

  • raven

    the primary purpose of which was to proselytize Christianity in Guatemala.

    WTH!!!

    1. Wikipedia: Guatemala is 87% xian, Catholics majority but almost as many fundies.

    Harris: US is 68% xian.

    If they wanted to convert heathens, they would be better off sending their missionaries to Marin or Santa Cruz county, California.

    Guatemala is more xian than the USA by a lot. They are there to convert Catholics to fundie Protestant. Most missionary work is among xians trying to get them to convert from one cult to another.

    2. This area has become very dangerous which is why tens of thousands of kids from central America are turning up in the USA. I don’t know about Guatemala but neighboring Honduras and El Salvador have the highest intentional murder rate in the world.

    I wouldn’t recommend sending teenagers there.

  • matty1

    Guatemala is something like 60%Maya and Mayan Catholicism is a bit different to the version elsewhere, with a lot of thinly disguised Saint gods who are sacrificed roosters and other atypical rituals.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Now, look, if Government School funds can’t be spent on converting Guatamalians to Christianity, then what are they afor?

  • D. C. Sessions

    This is exactly the kind of misapplication of the First Amendment that Justice Scalia warned against.

    Just because the AHA is offended by Christian children going to places in need of the Gospels doesn’t mean that they can get the government to prevent it.

    Although I do suspect Justice Scalia might be a bit less sure that the Catholics of Guatemala are in need of Christian missionaries.

  • raven

    Guatemala is something like 60%Maya and Mayan Catholicism is a bit different to the version elsewhere, with a lot of thinly disguised Saint gods who are sacrificed roosters and other atypical rituals.

    The US is something like 25% fundie xian and fundie xianity is a bit different from the versions elsewhere. With a lot of overt hate, lies, and hypocrisy and occasional sacrifices of children to their Sky Monster god and other atypical beliefs i.e. creationism, right wing extremist politics, vaguely humanoid toad leaders, racism, faith healing.

    Hard to say which variant of xianity is the most atypical here. Or the least destructive.

    Perhaps the Mayan Catholics should send missionaries to…Colorado instead.

  • magistramarla

    Hey Raven,

    Keep those rotten fundis out of Santa Cruz! It’s one of my favorite places to visit and I like it just the way it is.

  • chilidog99

    A quick google reveals that the school board is also dealing with a lawsuit over a sex assault case between a teacher and a student.

    time to clean house at that school board.

  • chilidog99

    Check out the second picture on the school board’s home page splash.

    https://www.dcsdk12.org

  • http://www.facebook.com/whumenansky williamhumenansky

    Ed, sorry to go off topic with this URL: http://www.duffelblog.com/2014/06/jeffrey-sinclair-soldier-of-year/#!2gq3K

    but thought you might like a tongue-in-check article on LTCOL Jeffrey St. Clair.

  • throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble

    Check out the second picture on the school board’s home page splash.

    https://www.dcsdk12.org

    It takes religion to make a symbol of excruciating torture of another human being that tacky to wear.

  • throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble

    But it’s not all bad news: https://www.dcsdk12.org/community-relations/senior-profiles-class-of-2014

    Jesus was only listed twice as the person they admire most. A lot of the others seemed social-justice aware. Except for Connor who just wants to blame “Lack of common sense and initiative”. Which sounds sort of like something a young Republican might say.

    Some of the best answers to ‘What’s the biggest problem facing the world right now?’

    The division of culture and religion that causes war throughout the world.

    Lack of access to public education for women and the poor in countries that are underdeveloped or violating human rights.

    The biggest problem is a lack of acceptance and understanding between people who are different. Whether it’s between Muslims and Christians, Democrats and Republicans, or blacks and whites, a little tolerance and compassion would make a huge difference.

    The biggest problem facing the world right now is that inequality, in any form, still exists. Basic needs and privileges for all people should all be met regardless of the circumstances in which someone is born.

    *sniff*

    Bless my cynical heart!

  • throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble

    The division of culture and religion that causes war throughout the world.

    Hmm, I’m second-guessing this one. It’s not exactly clear whether she was lamenting the division or referencing the divisive nature of those things.

  • http://mostlyrational.net tacitus

    My niece went on a school trip to Uganda a couple of years ago, and helped to build a new school for local kids while she was there. She had to do quite a lot of fundraising to help pay for the trip too.

    In the luggage they took with them was a payload of Bibles for the kids in Kenya, because her school was run by the Church of England even though it is a state school, and the trip was, in part, cast as a mission to help poor kids in Uganda.

    Her parents are both atheists, and weren’t particularly happy about the idea of the school sending Bibles along with the kids on the trip, but the religious landscape is very different to the USA in “post-Christian” Britain, and as with most things the religious establishment in the UK does these days, the response was just to shrug it off.

    In the end, the trip was a great experience for my niece. She got to do some hands of charitable work and see just how more well off she is compared with millions of other kids around the world. That formative experience with be with her for the rest of her life, and more than compensated for any sly proselytizing the Church of England might have accomplished.

    All of my five nephews and nieces have attended church run schools in the UK. It is almost certain that none of them will be regular church attendees in later life. We’re getting closer to the day that will be possible here in the USA as well.

  • whheydt

    Re: tacitus @ #15….

    Probably would have done the Ugandan kids more good if they’d taken Raspberry Pis & associated equipment than the Bibles.

  • Chuck

    From the Board’s welcome page:

    The Board has worked to raise the bar in education through its innovative Strategic Plan and the creation of new End Statements. Now the 4Cs (Critical Thinking, Creativity, Collaboration and Communication) are the focus of our educational mission in the Douglas County School District.

    ‘Critical thinking’ is the top focus of their mission? Wow, no dog whistles here.

  • Erp

    This is a big school district with 81 schools (9 of them high schools) with 61,000 students covering an area of 840 square miles. I suspect there is plenty of opportunity for little enclaves, but, also they are likely to have some top notch lawyers to advise them if they listen. Biology classes seem to cover evolution and if a student feels open to write on a class (not biology) blog “My Dream: to live in a world where social equality, intellectual curiosity, and humanism is encouraged and practiced on a global scale” things can’t be too bad.

    BTW one local news report (with comments)

    http://denver.cbslocal.com/2014/06/18/nonprofit-claims-douglas-county-schools-are-promoting-christianity/

    They quote the district as stating

    A response to CBS4 from the school district said “the Douglas County School District supports student-driven community and/or fundraising efforts. We applaud our students for being leaders and giving back to others.”

    which makes me wonder what question CBS4 asked.

    And a more serious lawsuit the district is involved in is on school vouchers

    https://www.dcsdk12.org/legal-counsel/choice-scholarship-program

  • dingojack

    Raven – ” I don’t know about Guatemala but neighboring Honduras and El Salvador have the highest intentional murder rate in the world.”

    If it were unintentional it wouldn’t be murder. [/pedant]

    Dingo

  • eric

    @2 and @3 – I’m not surprised. The same thing occurs in Africa – US church groups often send missions to places that have been Christian for centuries.

    Matty1 might be right that the reason is sectarianism (they want to convert catholics to evangelical protestantism), but I think the real reason is ignorance of history coupled with an unconscious or subtle racism. US churches first off don’t know or don’t expect the natives in these countries to be Christian – they still think of these places as “heathen” simply because they (the church-going US public) are ignorant. The subtle racism is that the folk in these countries look different, dress different, speak different, therefore (the missionaries think) they are not “real” Christians and must be shown the Great White Western Way.

  • colnago80

    Re dingojack @ #19

    It would still be homicide, at least in many states in the US.

  • Trebuchet

    Check out the second picture on the school board’s home page splash.

    I did some browsing around on the site as well. That district is so white, it’s blinding. At least according to their website. I saw one Asian face.

    @Dingo, #19:

    If it were unintentional it wouldn’t be murder. [/pedant]

    Actually, many US states have what’s called “Felony Murder”, in which any death that occurs during commission of a felony, regardless of intent, can be prosecuted as first degree murder. e.g., if you steal a car and cause a fatal accident, it’s murder. Even if the victim is your partner-in-crime. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felony_murder_rule

  • matty1

    @20 You may well be right, I’ve heard stories of missionaries teaching such central Christian doctrines as the rules of boxing on the grounds that anything they were used to must be more Christian than anything unfamiliar.

    I also wouldn’t ignore the role of inertia, I happen to know people who have gone to African countries as missionaries only to come back mystified saying things like “Why do they need us, their churches are busier than the ones we left from”. Yet the churches still send them, because once a place is on the list to receive missionaries they seem to find it easier to keep sending than to think about it.

  • matty1

    You know part of me wishes I’d known how dangerous Honduras was before I went backpacking there, then again I managed not to be murdered and actually enjoyed it so maybe ignorance is bliss.