How a Motivational Speaker Tricked a Public School District into Letting Him Preach to Students and Parents… and Got Paid for It

You have to wonder why high school administrators don’t do their due diligence when bringing speakers into their buildings…

Back in August, the Rio Rancho Public Schools (New Mexico) brought in a group called “The Future Champions of America” to teach students how to stay strong against “illegal drug use, drinking and driving, dropout rates, suicide and bullying.” The main speaker/performer was Jason “White Shadow” Gibbons, who shared that message while also showing off some of his basketball trick shots.

Gibbons was basically hired at a cost of $650 per school… for 20 performances total… which came out to nearly $12,000 (***Edit***: For the math folks out there, sometimes, multiple performances occurred at the same school):

Yep, the kids will all take him seriously

“We thought that the program had merit,” Boone said, hoping the sports theme would be a common denominator for youngsters.

Although board member Carl Harper was at first hesitant to take away instructional time in the classroom, he said, “This sounds like a nice program.”

“I think students are motivated by those kinds of things,” Superintendent Sue Cleveland said.

It turns out the school board members didn’t do the thing I did in about a minute online: Look up the FCA group (and Gibbons) online.

On Gibbons’ personal website, he has a section devoted to his ministry (emphasis his):

I have been performing and speaking in schools for over 7 years now. I feel the greatest responsibility that I have is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others… My passion is to share that same message with as many people as I possibly can!

Showtime basketball has proven be such a powerful tool to set the table for the gospel today. I’m extremely humbled that God would use me to help reach one of the great untapped mission fields… America’s public schools.

You know exactly how this turned out…

Gibbons went to the schools, performed for the crowd, and told students to make safe decisions — no problem there. His team also handed out flyers encouraging kids to bring their parents to a free evening performance for “Jason’s final night”:

So parents went, expecting more positive messages and cool basketball tricks.

What they got instead was a Christian revival (watch the video… seriously, watch it:

According to the flyers it was going to be a night of showtime basketball, entertainment, door prize and food.

There was no mention of religion, but she said about halfway through the event they got a heavy dose of it, starting with a personal story that sounded more like a testimony.

“They used our children; that’s the way it felt,” [parent] Rachel said. “They tricked our children.”

After the event was over the group handed out New Testaments to some of the older kids.

They also handed out different flyers which encourage people to go to a service at a local Baptist church this Sunday.

The school district said its reference checks did not show that the group preached religion even though it advertises itself as a faith-based.

So let’s summarize this whole thing.

The school district thought they were bringing in a motivational speaker. They didn’t do a thorough background check. They promoted his evening event on the host school’s website:

And they ended up with a couple of preachers instead.

Gibbons didn’t tell the school district the entire truth. He used his advertised talent to push his religious beliefs onto unsuspecting children and their parents.

His group got paid $12,000 in taxpayer money for praising Jesus to public school students and their parents… and afterwards, Gibbons pretended that he had no idea what all the controversy was all about!

“I hate to think that anybody would come away from any of our events feeling misled or feeling like they didn’t feel good about what happened there,” Gibbons said.

He knew exactly what he was doing.

Much like Christian rapper B-SHOC, Gibbons does whatever he needs to do to get invited to public schools. As soon as that door opens, he finds a way to preach to those kids using whatever deceptive practices he can, in this case, handing out flyers promoting his evening meeting without giving any indication it would be a conversion scheme.

To be clear, the problem wasn’t Gibbons’ in-school assemblies. The problem was that Gibbons illegally handed out flyers to students promoting his nighttime religious gathering — and no one thought to stop him.

If he was promoting Islam instead of Christianity, this would be a national news story.

Instead, it’s being ignored.

What’s worse is that the administrators are treating this like it was no big deal:

… the school district said if they were to invite the group back, they would need to take a second look at what happened before making a decision.

Here’s a better solution: GET YOUR MONEY BACK! They duped you! They wasted your community’s time! You could be held liable in a lawsuit! (And you can bet the Freedom From Religion Foundation is already on this.)

We owe a debt of gratitude to the people who took this story to the local press. It doesn’t matter that only one person or a small group of people complained — what the Christians did was wrong, and they need to be punished for it or they won’t stop.

(Thanks to @wills4223 for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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