CO School Sued Over Church/State Violations

A Jewish teacher in Florence, Colorado has filed a federal lawsuit against the school he teaches at for numerous Establishment Clause violations brought on by what looks like a partnership between the administration and a church that rents school facilities in order to proselytize students and teachers during school hours.

A Colorado teacher is suing his school district claiming the district’s only high school “operates largely to promote the evangelical Christian ideals” of a local church that operates in the school.

Robert Basevitz’s lawsuit against the Fremont Re-2 School District was filed Tuesday in federal court in Denver. School district officials said they have not been served and could not yet comment.

Randy Pfaff, the pastor of The Cowboy Church at Crossroads, said he will not apologize for being in Florence High School.

“I don’t believe the Constitution was meant to keep God out of the schools. That’s absolutely absurd,” Pfaff told The Denver Post on Tuesday in a phone interview. “This nation was founded on Christianity.”

Pfaff’s evangelical church, which rents cafeteria space at Florence High for Sunday morning services, hosts prayer every morning before school around the flagpole and hosts Bible study and pizza during lunch in a school classroom.

Here’s what the complaint says about some of what goes on there:

The Cowboy Church at Crossroads is lead by Pastor Randy Pfaff, and meets every Sunday in the cafeteria of the School. The Church is advertised by two large signs that are hung on school property and are clearly visible to motorists….

The cornerstone of Pastor Pfaff and the Church’s “mission work” at the School is daily morning prayer in front of the School, at the flagpole. Either Pastor Pfaff or another member of the Church has been present for this ceremony every day for the last three years. With the School’s support, Pastor Pfaff has led these services, ministering to the School’s students and staff while holding a bible and using a public address system to preach his evangelical Christian messages…. Numerous faculty members, in including Principal Schipper, participate in services…..

… Pastor Pfaff and the Church, with the support of the School’s administration, routinely minister to staff and students through the distribution of flyers promoting their evangelical Christian views…

Through the Fellowship’s front group, Pastor Pfaff and the Church also hold weekly lunches at the School. The students refer to this event as “Jesus Pizza.” This meeting is promoted to the School’s students and staff through the presence of a large sign in the hallway that reads “God loves you and has a plan for your life. Jeremiah 29:11.” …. During these “Jesus Pizza” sessions, which are led by Pastor Pfaff, he preaches to and prays with Florence students….

The church has every right to rent school facilities to hold services on the weekend, on par with any other community group. But they absolutely cannot go into the school during the school day to preach to or pray with students or teachers. That is pretty clearly unconstitutional.

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  • chilidog99

    I wonder who pays for the pizza.

  • John Pieret

    And the good Christian folks in the area will be threatening Robert Basevitz’ life, vandalizing his property and otherwise trying to make his life miserable in … 3 … 2 … 1 …

  • The Other Lance

    “Jesus Pizza”, I thought these were evangelical Christians, not Catholics……

  • John Pieret

    I don’t believe the Constitution was meant to keep God out of the schools. That’s absolutely absurd

    In case you haven’t noticed, you are not God. You are a minister of one sect of one religion. The Constitution most certainly was intended to keep the government from establishing one religion over another and that includes prohibiting public schools from letting one ministry move in lock, stock and barrel and give that ministry access to the students during the school day.

  • dingojack

    I sure hope they’re biblical pizzas! No meat with that cheese, and definitely no bacon.

    [Oh wait — Pfaff is one of those cafeteria Christians!]


  • Larry

    Numerous faculty members, in including Principal Schipper, participate in services

    I think I see the problem right there.

  • carpenterman

    “The Cowboy Church.” Oh man, this is too easy.

    “Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be evangelicals…”

    “I’m a Christian… on a steel horse I ride…”

    “I’m an old Christ-an… from the Rio Grande…”

    The possibilities are *endless*!

  • Modusoperandi

    Pastor Pfaff and the Church

    Dibs on fund band name!

  • chilidog99

    From the article linked to, above:

    Basevitz raised concerns to his school and district officials before preparing to file suit. But after filing a formal complaint with the district, officials transferred him to work at an elementary school.

    That school district is so toast

  • thebookofdave

    I don’t understand Mr. Basevitz’s complaint. Pastor Pfaff is only promoting the values that unite this great nation.

    This nation was founded on Christianity.

    But he really means Judeo-Christianity. The good pastor needs your support, not all this infighting and divisiveness.

  • rietpluim

    @John Pieret #4

    In case you haven’t noticed, you are not God. You are a minister of one sect of one religion.

    That is some excellent reply. It made me think: suppose God really showed up and asked access to the school? I don’t think the constitution would forbid that, as long as He doesn’t proselytize.

  • John Pieret

    The school administration replies:

    Superintendent Rhonda Roberts said illegal religious activities are not occurring in the school district.

    “The district is committed to following the letter of the law, while still allowing students the right to have student-led clubs that reflect their interests.” Roberts stated by email. “I also want to reassure our community that Florence High School has been, and continues to be, an educational institution that does not promote religion, as contended in the complaint. The majority of the information in the complaint is inaccurate, or at best, taken out of context. Any concerns raised by Mr. Basevitz were immediately addressed.”

    She said transferring Basevitz to a different school wasn’t an act of vengeance.

    “All of the district’s staffing decisions are based on the needs of our students and consistent with the terms of our negotiated agreement. … Staffing decisions are made based on the needs of students in specialized programs or fluctuations in enrollment. In this case, it was a fluctuation in enrollment,” Roberts stated.

  • caseloweraz

    Regarding the good Pastor’s access to the school, I was about to write, “…he is like the Pfaff which the wind driveth away.” But it seems Robert Bazevitz is the one who was driven away. Regardless, his lawsuit has merit and will not be easily dispelled.

  • caseloweraz

    Florence is a small city in SE Colorado: less than 4,000 souls according to the 2000 census, and 93 percent white. There might not be any Muslims resident, but surely some could be found in the area. Colorado Springs and Pueblo are not far away. So if Pastor Pfaff gives up one or two days per week to Allah…

  • alanuk

    I was going to suggest cutting that flagpole down but, on second thoughts, that would be quite Biblical.