School Board Cancels Field Trip to Proselytizing Recreation Camp… Let the Complaining Commence

The middle schools in Washington County (in Maryland) took a field trip to Antietam Recreation last year. Sounds like a fun place — horseback riding, swimming pool, a petting zoo, etc. — but I guess no one in charge took a look at the self-provided description on their website:

The family-owned and operated facility is designed to provide active, exciting, and unique activities in a friendly, Christian atmosphere.

They’re sneaky about this, though. In the field trip packet (PDF) they presumably give to schools, the agenda for students looks like this:

No Jesus in sight. What they don’t tell you is that during lunch, the performers in the “show” talk about God. At least that’s what happened last year (and who knows what others sorts of proselytization took place).

To their credit, the district will not be making the same mistake twice. They won’t be going back — thanks to some vocal atheist parents — and one of the owners of Antietam Recreation is not happy about it. She showed up to the school board’s last meeting to plead her business’ case:

“With suicide, drugs and violence so rampant with young people today, we have specially designed this short time of our day to inspire and motivate students,” [owner Mary] Rotz told the board.

[Superintendent Clayton] Wilcox said the school system “can’t really provide a captive forum” for kids whose parents might be opposed to beliefs held by traditional Christians.

“I have struggled with this issue, quite honestly, because I think most of us here don’t really see anything wrong with the camp. … But we do understand that we have a responsibility for kids whose parents might,” Wilcox said.

School system officials told Antietam Recreation representatives that unless they change the theme of the 20-minute lunchtime portion of the program, the school system won’t let kids attend.

“We’re not willing to have a program that… would eliminate what young people need most to inspire and encourage them to be the best they can be,” Rotz told the board.

Okay, so it’s hardly an emphatic defense of the Constitution, but Wilcox is trying to be overly nice about his decision to a woman who thinks that, without Jesus, all these 11-year-olds are going to resort to killing themselves or shooting up (in a couple of different ways).

How nobody carefully looked into this place before going there last year is beyond me. But at least they’re not setting themselves up for a lawsuit. The decision is simple: We’re not sending our public school kids to a Christian training camp.

By the way, don’t read the comments at the Herald-Mail website. People there seem to think that this is discrimination against Christians and that asking the group to not talk about Jesus is somehow the same as preaching atheism.

(Thanks to Joan 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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