Why is a Church “Adopting” This Public School?

Public schools across the country are facing budget issues — good luck finding a teaching job for next year — and they’re looking for any way to cut costs without having to fire staff.

Out of desperation, they will also try to raise money in questionable ways.

Like this school in Florida:

When his budget for pencils, paper, and other essential supplies was cut by a third this school year, the principal of Combee Elementary School worried children would suffer.

Then, a local church stepped in and “adopted” the school. The First Baptist Church at the Mall stocked a resource room with $5,000 worth of supplies. It now caters spaghetti dinners at evening school events, buys sneakers for poor students, and sends in math and English tutors.

The principal is delighted. So are church pastors. “We have inroads into public schools that we had not had before,” says Pastor Dave McClamma. “By befriending the students, we have the opportunity to visit homes to talk to parents about Jesus Christ.”

Not. Even. Subtle.

This is the classic Christian bait-and-switch: become someone’s friend and use that relationship specifically to convert the other person.

This church is paying the school for new members.

While Combee gained resources, the church gained access to families. At Christmas, the school connected the church with parents who said they wouldn’t mind being visited at home by First Baptist. The church brought gifts, food and the gospel. Of about 30 families visited over two weekends in December, 13 “came to the Lord,” says Mr. McClamma, a 58-year-old motorcycle buff who drives a black sports-utility vehicle with the bumper sticker “Christ First.”

Mr. McClamma says adopting Combee goes far beyond providing resources like school supplies. “The purpose is to show them the church cares, and that there is hope, and hope is found in Jesus Christ.”

“If they want to come in and help, who am I to say no?” says Mr. Comparato, the principal.

He says he would welcome congregations of any faith as sponsors, but adds of his students, “My personal conviction is that I hope through this they’ll know Jesus and they’ll get saved.”

Makes you want to scream, right?

How is this principal still in his position? You think he’d have his job if Jesus were replaced with Allah in his comment?

Americans United for Separation of Church and State is threatening a lawsuit:

The entire situation is outrageous and shows why it’s so important that the government fully and adequately fund our public schools. Students from all different faith backgrounds attend public schools and need to feel welcome. While the church’s help may make things a bit easier financially, Comparato’s actions are blasting away at the religious liberty rights of all students, not to mention violating church-state separation.

It’s not Comparato’s business whether students and their families “get saved,” and no public school anywhere should be helping a church fill up its membership roll. Officials at Combee Elementary need to discontinue this arrangement now -– before a federal court makes them.

I hope that’s not just an empty threat. This is ridiculous.

That’s not even the only church/state violation taking place — here’s one in which the government is directly involved:

Short of funds to provide homeless services, the Florida Department of Children and Families recently gave nearly $260,000 to the First Baptist Church Leesburg, an hour from Orlando, to buy and renovate the old Big Bass Motel in Leesburg. The church will open it this month as a shelter for homeless families. Residents will be required to attend church, though it doesn’t have to be First Baptist, says Chester Wood, director of the inn.

Will a Humanist congregation count? I’d love to know.

  • http://zackfordblogs.com ZackFord

    Given that the very same Florida DCF hired George Rekers to testify against gay adoption (at the direction of Bill McCollum), one wonders if corruption runs a bit deeper…

    This story is very frustrating.

  • Pingback: Church “Adopts” A Public School With Aims Of Converting Students And Their Families « Camels With Hammers

  • Ubi Dubium

    A local church has “adopted” UbiDubiKid #2′s elementary school. But so far, it does not seem to be crossing the line of church-state separation. It’s a moderate Methodist Church, so they strike me as less likely to view this as evangelism and more as community service. I know they are providing tutors, and I think some help with school supplies. As long as they are doing this because “Helping students is a good thing to do” and not because “We can preach at them” then I am pretty much OK with this. But it should be watched carefully, since some churches will push those boundaries as far as they can get away with.

  • Samiimas

    So how long until we get the usual “Well none of the student’s seem to be complaining…” defense? Because I’m sure theirs absolutely no pressure for students to say yes to these offers from the organization paying for them to go to school and likewise I’m certain the faculty at this cash strapped public school would never try to stop people from complaining about the group that’s throwing money at them. You know how public school administrations in America are famous for being completely uncorrupt and never valuing funding over their students.

  • T Ray

    If I or Pepsico or Frito-Lay donated $5000 worth of supplies will the school facilitate visits for us as well? Foreign diplomats? Lobbyists? Imams and Mullahs? Drug kingpins?

    A charitable donation does not buy inroads. If the goal or outcome of a charitable donation is marketing opportunities then it is not a charitable donation. The expectation of more than public thanks and recognition shows just how uncharitable these donations were.

    Why is it not disgraceful that in any given community religious organizations fatten while education starves?

  • http://www.thatpinkmouse.com/bloggy Jenny Bliss

    its wrong yes but i see large orginised religion as a buisnes meerly becuase most of the larger ones operate just like a buisness only with some slightly different rules depending where you are, quite simplistic buuut i cant be bothered to go into anymore detail than that right now ^_^

  • http://www.youtube.com/azsuperman01 AZSuperman01

    The first story is bad enough – the church is literally buying leads — they are hoping to get a return on their investment in the way of tithes.

    The second story is completely ridiculous – imagine telling a homeless person that they can either live on the street and starve, or they can come stay in a nice warm shelter — as long as they pray to a Jewish zombie.

  • http://www.youtube.com/azsuperman01 AZSuperman01

    @T Ray “A charitable donation does not buy inroads. If the goal or outcome of a charitable donation is marketing opportunities then it is not a charitable donation.”

    Well said! This wasn’t a charitable donation, it was an advertising campaign.

  • plutosdad

    The whole episode reminds me – yet again – of Jesus’s condemnation of religious leaders who give to charity for ulterior motives. Amazing how those few lines are totally ignored by so many christians, or at least the ones that make it into the news, I’ve known people who take it seriously and hide their charitable actions and prayer, looking at the news you’d think that’s a minority of them.

    It would be funny each time things like this happen to send these people and churches letters saying “congratulations, you have already received your reward.”

  • JT

    @ T-Ray…I actually think that’d be a hilarious idea. Corporations can buy ad space in the curriculum. Pepsi Cola presents: Prepositions. And every example sentence is about how refreshing Pepsi is. Don’t get me wrong, it’d wreak havoc on young developing minds. But it’s an amusing thought. Not sure how it could be transferred to math. Maybe we replace the multiplication sign with the Target logo?

  • Aaron

    Something like this?
    When his budget for pencils, paper, and other essential supplies was cut by a third this school year, the principal of Combee Elementary School worried children would suffer.
    Then, a local mosque stepped in and “adopted” the school. The Combee Islamic Center stocked a resource room with $5,000 worth of supplies. It now caters spaghetti dinners at evening school events, buys sneakers for poor students, and sends in math and English tutors.
    The principal is delighted. So are mosque leaders. “We have inroads into public schools that we had not had before,” says Imam Mohammad Abdullah . “By befriending the students, we have the opportunity to visit homes to talk to parents about Allah.”
    While Combee gained resources, the mosque gained access to families. The school connected the mosque with parents who said they wouldn’t mind being visited at home by Islamic Center representatives. The mosque brought gifts, food and the Koran. Of about 30 families visited over two weekends, 13 “declared their faith in Allah,” says Mr. Abdullah, a 58-year-old who drives a black sports-utility vehicle with the bumper sticker “Praise Allah.”
    Mr. Abdullah says adopting Combee goes far beyond providing resources like school supplies. “The purpose is to show them the mosque cares, and that there is hope, and hope is found in Allah.”
    “If they want to come in and help, who am I to say no?” says Mr. Comparato, the principal.
    He says he would welcome congregations of any faith as sponsors, but adds of his students, “My personal conviction is that I hope through this they’ll know Allah and they’ll get saved.”

  • Jolly

    The principal is a Christian so he thinks this is all right but if a Wiccan group did this would he OK it? I don’t think Christians have as big of a problem with Islam as they do with Wicca because Islam is so closely related to the Zombie club with the same roots.

  • muggle

    Go, AU! This principal has some gall and as you said, they’re not even being subtle. It should be fairly open and shut.

  • Scott M.

    I need a link to the 2nd story. I’m not finding anything with my paltry internet skills.

  • Scott M.

    Nevermind! I finally got around to reading the actual article and found it inside. Doh!

  • angrymonkey

    To be honest if a school is in such dire financial straights as this one seems to be, it is understandable to me that they make an advertising deal. Be it with the local church or the Pepsi corporation. Yes it’s up to the community to put restrictions on those let in, i.e. no KKK or tobacco advertisement.

    But if I were an atheist parent in whose children attended this school I would be hard pressed to sacrifice my kids’ educations out of an objection towards some relatively passive proselytizing. The principle of this school looks like he is in a lose lose situation and took the path that sacrificed the fewest students educations.

    If people want to take the moral high ground on this one than the least they can do is make a small donation to the school so the administrators don’t have to resort to religious prostitution.

  • TheRealistMom/Spamamander

    Angrymonkey, as an atheist parent I would be incensed. I would hope as a religious parent I would be incensed. It’s not “passive proselytizing” if they are openly stating the goal is to get families to be “saved”.

    As for the second story, that is precisely why I refuse to give to religious-based charities. Don’t get me wrong; some organizations do a great deal of good. I just can more easily give to secular organizations and know that there won’t be strings attached to the services. the Salvation Army, for example, is exactly that- an “army” of people actively attempting to preach, requiring people to sit through church services in order to eat. This kind of bartering turns my stomach.

  • Evilspud

    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

    “Who am I to say no,” Says the Principle.

    The principle. That’s your job. What they did was slimy. Your studednts, kids you are responsible for, will not remember the textbooks, the new pencils and paper. What they will remember is how that Church impacted their school in a way that was manipulative.

    It’s gonna be interesting seeing how the teachers handle their lessons on the US Constitution.

  • Victor

    Sheesh, they sound like the Mafia! “You’ve got a friend in the family.” So horrible to hold schools and kids hostage like that.

  • SpencerDub

    How much do you have to donate to make the school stop teaching the Constitution?

  • Karen

    My former church was doing this same thing (adopting an impoverished, low-performing local public school) 10 years ago.

    They also funneled the kids into youth group, invited teachers and staff to church and donated money/supplies.

    It’s a blatant evangelical outreach that they make no apology for, and as far as I know, they didn’t get any pushback from the community, either. Most people in that area are poor Hispanic and Asian immigrants, so they’re already religious or at least religion-tolerant.

  • http://criticallyskeptic.blogspot.com Kevin
  • Sellers_as_Quilty

    Donating to a needy school would be an altruistic act if there were no ulterior motives. The church in this case is breathtakingly candid about why they’re doing what it’s doing. This is not altruism; it’s proselytizing.

    Besides, religious altruism is fundamentally corrupted. If you give to someone who is in need because they are in need (because of your own conscience, your built-in sense of the golden rule, and your sense of human solidarity), THAT’S true altruism. No strings. But if you give to someone in need because you think it’s what God demands of you, then you’re just obeying orders (and avoiding punishment)–which is not altruism. Ditto if you’re doing the altruistic act in order to be better positioned to proselytize (which is incredibly demented and cynical when you think about it).

  • Bokonon

    the Salvation Army, for example, is exactly that- an “army” of people actively attempting to preach, requiring people to sit through church services in order to eat. This kind of bartering turns my stomach.

    Precisely the problem with may religious charities—they compel the poor and the needy to sit through religious propaganda in order to have a meal, or a used winter coat, or a place to sleep. Now can you imagine the outrage if any other institution or organization did this? Say the Democratic party wouldn’t feed people in its soup kitchens unless they sat through political propaganda—can you imagine? Only religious institutions are allowed to behave this way, with most of the public basically approving of it.

    The religious do not see the poor as an opportunity to help fellow humans in need. They see the poor, along with the indigenous tribes in far off places, as an opportunity for “ministry.” The fact that the poor and indigenous might just have beliefs and integrity of their own, is lost on such proselytizers.

  • Alexis

    “Residents will be required to attend church, though it doesn’t have to be First Baptist”. No mention of synagogue or mosque there either. And if the school were to receive an analogous offer from a synagogue or mosque or a secular humanist organization, I have little doubt what their reaction would be.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    In England this is par for the course. I’m actually jealous that you have some legal protection against it.

  • Staceyjw

    If churches want to help so badly,let them PAY THEIR LOCAL TAXES!

    In some small towns, I bet that having churches (often many for such small populations) pay local property tax would be enough to fund the short school budgets.

    I don’t see why they are allowed all these exemptions- they usually own some of the prime land in every city, why shouldn’t they pay???

    They LOVE seperation of church and state ONLY when it means they get to skirt on their public duties. After all, the roads parishoners use to attend their church is paid for by TAXES.

    These principles should be fired. I would also like to see an atheist group try the same thing…

  • Edmond

    You know, when I went to public school, my folks bought my paper and pencils FOR me, they weren’t provided by the school. Ditto for notebooks, erasers, pens, rulers, calculators….

    What ARE these “other essential supplies”, exactly?

  • SickoftheUS

    This is a another good example of encroachment of church or corporation – private entities – on the public infrastructure of the US. Here, the church is like a carrion-feeder on the carcass of the school left behind by the corporate and military forces running our country.

    The lesson to be learned here is why this school is suffering financially in the first place, and thus so vulnerable to temptations like what this church is offering. WHY? Where is our public money going?

  • Marilyn

    The second story is far more infuriating than the first. They’re literally telling homeless people to worship Jesus or sleep on the streets, and the government supports them. Gag me.

  • ckitching

    Where is our public money going?

    Tax cuts and inflation. Or maybe the fact you spend more money on your military than anyone else in the world.

  • Citizen Z

    It’s like that story of that guy who was beat up and left on the side of the road, and a Samaritan comes along and says, “Hey, if you have a moment to listen about the good news of Samaritanism, maybe I could find the time to help you out. Has anyone ever told you about Taheb, the restorer?”

  • SickoftheUS

    Marilyn wrote:

    The second story is far more infuriating than the first. They’re literally telling homeless people to worship Jesus or sleep on the streets, and the government supports them.

    I faced a very similar choice earlier in life in a period when I was homeless. I had a roof over my head at night thanks to the Salvation Army, who did not directly try to proselytize me, but people in the shelter were left to their own devices for food. One popular choice, because it was nearby, because they left flyers at the SA shelter, and because it was better than starvation, was some urban ministry that gave the homeless person a meal after they let them preach at them for some period of time.

    I showed up at that ministry one day to see what was going on, but I guess I wasn’t hungry enough to submit to them. I barely scraped by for a few months by selling my blood plasma (and becoming very thin).

    Before I found the SA shelter, I stayed one night at a house in San Diego, which turned out to be a racket for turning desperate people into street evangelists for some Christian sect.

    This was in San Diego in 1992, and I shudder to think how common these practices have probably become in the woe-ridden US.

  • Dan W

    This is ridiculous. The ACLU would be right to sue. This sort of thing can’t be done in public schools- it’s unconstitutional.

    “This is the classic Christian bait-and-switch: become someone’s friend and use that relationship specifically to convert the other person.”
    ^ This Christian tactic is one that really irritates me. I’d prefer they become my friend because they like me as a person, rather than because they think they can use this fake friendship to convert me. At least the annoying door-to-door bible-pushers are honest about their intentions towards people.

  • Dan W

    Oops, AU would be right to sue. Not ACLU.

  • Alexis

    And the aid agency thing has only gotten worse with the “faith biased initiatives”.

  • Scootah

    Yeesh. This is probably one of the least contemptible things that a church will do this year. In the absence of adequate funding for a public school – they coughed up some money to see that kids needs are met… and that’s a bad thing?

    Call your applicable government representative and demand higher taxes. Donate some money to your local schools. Demand an end to the war in Iraq. Be upset about all the things that have drained money away from schools. Then if you really have to, whinge about some of the other people who are donating to schools.

    But as long as you’ve got free time and disposable income that you’re not willing to put towards helping kids – it’s pretty obnoxious to complain about people who are.

    As a side note – I have plenty of free time and probably some disposable income that I could contribute towards helping kids – but I don’t give a rats, so if the church wants to do it instead – I have nothing bad to say about it. I just hope that anybody who’s responsible for a child isn’t gullible enough to buy into an imaginary man in the sky who watches while you poop and makes up the difference between government funding and realistic school necessities.

  • Gandhi

    I agree with “Schootah” If you are not a part of the solution, then your are part of the problem.

    I see many people mad here? How many of you are parents from the students of that school? None

    Maybe people should mind there own business…


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