Texas Church Sets Up Shop Across the Street from an Elementary School and Offers ‘Free Cookies and Prayer’

This is a guest post by Joe Zamecki.

A church sets up shop across the street from an elementary school (Joe Zamecki)

As I type this, the church next door to my house is focusing its attention on Katy Elementary School which is across the street from us. It looks like Orientation Day, so all of the new students and their parents are at the school, late in the day, and they’re all very busy, moving from one area to another.

The church is medium-sized, which in this town, Katy, Texas, means that the building is about the size of a high school gymnasium. It’s a Methodist church, and a somewhat active one.

Starting at roughly 4:00p, the church sprang into action. About a dozen adults and another dozen kids brought tents and tables and coolers and chairs out to the northernmost side of their parking lot, right up to the curb on the street — as close as they could get to the elementary school without actually being on its property.

They brought posters with them saying some friendly things, though it’s hard to tell since they were almost impossible to read from where I was sitting. I don’t dare go out there and ask them about it. Katy is a tiny little conservative town in the Bible Belt, nestled next to the crown jewel of that belt, Houston.

I don’t want to do any activism this close to my home. If this was happening even just around the corner a bit, I’d be all over it. I’d get it on video and try to get an interview with them, too. But I already know what they’re doing. It’s very obvious.

“Free cookies and a prayer!” a young girl yells again and again, with the vocal strength of a professional activist. I wish our protests showed this much energy. But it’s getting annoying.

An adult Boy Scout in uniform walks up and talks with them. A few minutes later, the chant morphs into, “Free cookies and prayer… and Boy Scout information!”

Have I mentioned that school hasn’t even closed for the day?

In any other situation, I’d be the first to say, “Bring on the free cookies!” and “Thank you, that’s very kind of you.” But here, I mostly want to cry foul. As an ex-Christian, I understand what’s going on here: It’s a lure.

That’s a public school that undoubtedly has non-Christian students. The church wants them to join the faith while they’re young, before they’re old enough to think more critically about what’s being offered here. Given that this little town has a Christian church on almost every other block, including this one, I call this overkill. It’s just plain greedy if you ask me.

But they’re staying on their property, not even crossing the street to talk to anyone at the school. It’s a distinction without a difference, though. They’re getting plenty of attention with their signs and that young girl yelling.

Every fall, when the school year begins anew, some churches try to become a part of the event. I’d like to advise all church/state separation activists to look out for this, to make sure all laws are obeyed.

The town I’m in now needs activism. So I will carefully conduct activism here, like a honey bee in a hornet’s nest. I’m facing exposure and ostracism left and right — and loving it.

Now in our best child-like voice, say it with me: “Free cookies and a prayer!”

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.