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 chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Brad dayag

    Umm … whats the issue? They aren’t doing anything that prohibited, are they? Sounds like you are just pissed because they are exercising their First Amendment right in ways you don’t approve of.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      It’s sadly unsurprising that you wouldn’t recognize behavior that would get anyone else a restraining order for luring children.

    • 3lemenope

      I just would have thought that the Truth wouldn’t need cookies for a teaser.

    • The Captain

      Just because something is not prohibited does not mean it’s not a pathetic, stupid, asinine thing to do and the great thing is that the same first amendment that allows ignorant jack-ass’s to do things like this also allows for people like the author to call them out on their assholeness.

    • Bdole

      Get ‘em while they’re young and vulnerable, amirite! *high-holy-five*
      /s

    • Matt D

      Not really, we just find it incredibly weak that anyone finds merit in dolling out sweets to entice children into believing fairy tales.

    • skeptical_inquirer

      If it wasn’t somebody from a church, I really think you’d find it creepy, no matter how hard they protested some innocence. I don’t think you’d like if some stranger had a free candy stand at your local playground, using some young kid as bait to get other kids to come closer. considering some churches are in major trouble for having their leaders prey on kids, your surprise at people giving it a side-eye is incredibly naive.

    • Monika Jankun-Kelly

      How would you react if a Jewish, Hindu or *gasp* atheist group did the same thing? Guess what happens almost every damn time non-Christians try to distribute literature in schools or do something else the Christians are doing? They get shut down. Christians demand and get special treatment, then loudly deny getting it. That’s one of the issues.

    • Tobias2772

      Brad,
      I agree. I recognize that they are probably on solid legal grounds, but it still bothers me that they are inducing little kids into such a damaging mindset so surrepticiously.

    • Spuddie

      Legal, perhaps, barely. In good taste or appropriate, no. Not even close.

      So what reason does a church have to gather children together outside the presence or permission of their parents?

      Nothing legitimate.

      If they can’t talk directly to the parents, they have no business talking to children.

      • skinnercitycyclist

        Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought the author wrote that this was some kind of orientation day where kids AND THEIR PARENTS were gathering for programming at the school. If that was the case, I have mainly aesthetic concerns with the whole affair. It is also true that if they are sticking to their own property and not being a traffic hazard or disrupting the school in any way (e.g., “theological” disputes begun off-campus somehow interfere with provision of education), they are merely creepy and deserve counter-measures of a legal, safe, and derisive nature.

        If instead of a church it was a candy store, it would still be a lure for children, every bit as unhealthy as this Christian twaddle, and every bit as legal.

        • Spuddie

          “If instead of a church it was a candy store, it would still be a lure for children, every bit as unhealthy as this Christian twaddle, and every bit as legal.”

          And just as tasteless. Nobody is saying it is illegal. Its just obnoxious.

  • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.co.uk/ Steve Bowen

    I suggest hiring a kid to shout “free water and homeopathy”…just that little bit louder.

  • A3Kr0n

    If I set up tables next to a school and offered cookies to kids, I’d be arrested instantly. Why do churches get special privileges especially since they seem to have a rather large population of child abusers in their ranks?
    Why are atheist so angry?

    • Beth Clarkson

      What charges would you be arrested on? I don’t think this is illegal.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        On suspicion of doing something very bad. Why would a grown man (I think A3Kr0n is male) offer cookies to children unless he had plans to groom them for something awful? But a church, now, they get to just give out cookies and prayers without so much as a second look from most people.

        • Jim

          Let’s not get stupid here. The police can’t just arrest someone because they might be giving kids cookies to groom them for sexual abuse. They actually have to have some kind of evidence of the latter being the case.

          • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

            They can, and will, tell you to leave though. They may arrest you on suspicion of child enticement if you don’t leave. They will certainly put you in the “suspicious person” category, and you’re totally fucked if anything does happen to one of those children because you are now suspect #1.

            • Jim

              “They can, and will, tell you to leave though.”

              And they have no legal ground to do so and would be opening themselves up for a lawsuit.

              • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                Yeah, actually they do. Until and unless you can prove you haven’t poisoned the cookies, they can totally tell you to take your cookies and go home.

                • Jim

                  That’s not how the law words. The government can’t make a claim about you and then punish you until you prove yourself innocent. That’s opening themselves up for a civil rights suit.

                  Is this thread full of redditors or something?

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  It’s not a punishment to make you go away. It’s protecting public health and safety, which police officers are tasked to do.

              • 3lemenope

                Serving food to the public without a serving licence?
                Child Endangerment (allergies, road)?
                Disturbing the Peace (read a Disturbing the Peace statute sometime; they are breathlessly, terrifyingly broad)?
                Loitering?
                Disobeying a lawful order?

                • Jim

                  “Serving food to the public without a serving licence?”

                  This applies to anyone, not just a guy on the sidewalk.

                  “Child Endangerment (allergies, road)?”

                  This would apply to anyone running a restaurant, food cart, store, etc.

                  “Disturbing the Peace (read a Disturbing the Peace statute sometime; they are breathlessly, terrifyingly broad)?”

                  Unlikely.

                  “Loitering?”

                  From what I can tell, that’s not a crime in Texas, and giving out cookies is not loitering.

                  “Disobeying a lawful order?”

                  That’s not a crime unless an order was lawful. Telling someone to leave for no reason is not a lawful order.

                • 3lemenope

                  This applies to anyone, not just a guy on the sidewalk.

                  Uh, yeah. Point is, it does apply to the guy on the sidewalk serving food.

                  This would apply to anyone running a restaurant, food cart, store, etc.

                  No. Such businesses are not actively inducing children to cross a busy street, and follow posting requirements to avoid liability for allergens.

                  Unlikely.

                  In every jurisdiction I’ve ever seen, unlicensed hawking fell squarely into disturbing the peace. You start screaming “COOKIES!” randomly across a busy street for an hour, and find out what happens.

                  From what I can tell, that’s not a crime in Texas, and giving out cookies is not loitering.

                  That does seem to be the case. So, point on that.

                  That’s not a crime unless an order was lawful. Telling someone to leave for no reason is not a lawful order.

                  It turns out that does not matter. It is illegal to resist a police officer’s order, even if the order is unlawful. See, in Texas for example, Title 8 §38.03(b).

      • A3Kr0n

        Child enticement

  • CommentMaker

    I’ve heard that Katy, Texas is a great place to live. Now we have an envious atheist who cannot stand seeing a place that can live in peace with the Methodist. Go get a free cookie, they will respect you not wanting to pray. If you want to be a turd, go lay out in your yard.

    • 3lemenope

      Go get a free cookie, they will respect you not wanting to pray.

      How do you know?

      • CommentMaker

        Prove me wrong. That is the only way you can prove anything. But you will make an issue of it and cause an incident and police report.

        • 3lemenope

          You have an active imagination.

          For my part, I have been accosted by very aggressive Christians at the grocery store a few times who asked what church I attended and wanted me to pray with them. When I tried to gently and politely tell them, no, I really don’t want to pray with them and I don’t attend a church in the area, they went into full-on personal-space-violating witness mode and would not stop until I had to more firmly tell them to stop following me around. They were certainly quite offended by the notion of someone declining to pray with them.

          But all three times this happened I was in Florida. Maybe Florida Christians are not true Christians. Who knows?

          • CommentMaker

            They are not well informed. It is Christ who draws a person to Him. All they should do is ask and respond to your answer. If a person does not want Christ and tells me they are atheist, I thank them and tell them to have a good day.

            • Matt D

              Excellent! Now all we need do, is examine your posting history to see if your statement is truthful.

            • unclemike

              We are atheists. Will you now go away and have a good day?

              • CommentMaker

                Just trying to bridge the communication gap. I guess you have no answers. Typical!

                • 3lemenope

                  Just trying to bridge the communication gap.

                  Protip: Communication requires listening as well as speaking.

                • unclemike

                  We don’t claim to know all the answers. You just don’t like the ones we give to your questions.

            • Spuddie

              So they are not true Scotsmen?

            • skeptical_inquirer

              Then it would seem a good majority of Christians are not well informed.

            • Nikita

              Christ or chocolate chip cookies? Apparently this group knows the true draw.

        • Lea Tapp

          That imaginary scenario escalated quickly.

        • Smiles

          “Prove me wrong. That is the only way you can prove anything.”

          You have that backwards… It needs to be proven correct, that is how you prove things… See: Burden of Proof.

          • CommentMaker

            This blog made the comment. They have the burden of proof, not me.

            • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

              Ah, no. Burden of proof does not work that way. The person making a claim of existence has the burden of proof; nonexistence is the default position.

              This video explains the concept extremely well. I suggest you watch it.

    • Edmond

      Would you mind if the Muslims set up a table, and lured your children over with cookies, without even seeking your permission? Could we have a whole ROW of “religion vendors”, tempting the little ones with cookies and candies, to get them to listen to all the stories about all the different gods? Who ELSE can set up tables, and lure children with sweets? You should be able to see that this is dishonest and underhanded. It may even cross an unacceptable line. If a religion has merits, then let it stand on those. Don’t pad it with sugar, just so it can be more easily sold to minors who can’t make an informed decision the way an adult can.

      • MariaO

        I can just picture this wonderful idea. Why not order the various religions by number of gods (or prophets in case of ties).The more the merrier. Because it would be very difficult to take any one of them seriously when faced with this variety.

      • CommentMaker

        I understand what you are saying. When we send our children to college, the professors are worse than what you have explained. Our children are expected to take test on things they do not believe. The professors will humiliate the children, too. I experienced it and so has my son. Everyone is trying to protect their children from Muslim, atheist, Buddhist and the government. What do you do?

        • unclemike

          Presumably, one is an adult when one enters college, and can decide things for oneself. 6-year-olds are not in the same position.

          • CommentMaker

            Really, proof!

            • 3lemenope

              Are you saying you are as mentally capable now as you were when you were six?

            • jferris

              Yes, proof please. I would like you to answer Epicurus trilemma using the Bible please, since it has the answers to life’s question:
              Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
              Then he is not omnipotent.
              Is he able, but not willing?
              Then he is malevolent.
              Is he both able and willing?
              Then whence cometh evil?
              Is he neither able nor willing?
              Then why call him God?

              I would sure like to have the chapter and verse that answers this for me. I’ve got my bible handy, let me know….

            • unclemike

              You need proof that a 6-year-old is not the same as an adult college-going person? Seriously?

              • phantomreader42

                Well, he clearly hasn’t matured since the age of six…

            • Matt D

              Wow, I think I want to frame this posts in a time capsule for future laughs, or use it as a sig.

              • C.L. Honeycutt

                Page saved, just in case.

            • Cassiopeia

              Well when I was six I could not legally drive a car, get married, smoke a cigarette or buy alcohol (buying alcohol may vary depending on country). When I went to university I could do all of those things (although not at one).

              That proves that, culturally at least, I was considered mature enough to be allowed controlled substances, control over a dangerous vehicle and to change my name.

        • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

          I send them to college is what I do, and tell them that I expect them to challenge their preconceptions and expand their knowledge as much as possible. The tests are tests of understanding the material, not of what they believe.

          What does that have to do with offering small children cookies to lure them into listening to a religious sales pitch?

          • CommentMaker

            Listening to religion gives them answers to life’s questions. Do atheist have answers? I don’t think so.

            • Lee Miller

              Which religion, dearie? Are they all equally good? Christians don’t get to assume they’ll always be first in line.

            • Edmond

              What answers does religion provide? Does it tell us why we have life? Does it explain why there’s an Earth? Does it give reasons why God decided he needed to create a universe, so that he would have people to send to Hell? Does religion REALLY have answers to these questions, answers that we can research to see how true they are? Or does it just PRETEND to have answers, which no one can research, which can never be proven, and which often make no sense?
              When atheists don’t have answers, we SAY SO. Very often, the correct answer is “I don’t know” or “We don’t that know yet”. I don’t understand why religion is so uncomfortable with that answer, or why religious people are satisfied with MAGIC as an answer to their questions.

            • Spuddie

              Only provided you are in the correct sect or faith. Anyone else is subject to persecution, insulting remarks concerning their fate and possible discrimination.

            • Matt D

              Wrong, religions give speculations about life, not answers. It’s hardly difficult to prove that. Merely by reading a few passages of most religious texts, can one discern they were as scientific as the Inquisition.

            • ZenDruid

              The answers from religion are dishonest, incorrect or superfluous.

              “I don’t know”, on the other hand, is honest.

            • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

              It’s no good thinking you have all the answers to life’s questions when you have the wrong answers. We don’t pretend to have all the answers, but we at least think you should check your answers against reality. Your religion never does that, it just hands you a set of answers and says “You have to believe these are right, and pay no attention to whether it matches the real world.”

            • RobMcCune

              ooh! OOOH! I have one!

              Listening to religion gives them answers to life’s questions?

              False.

        • Edmond

          I’m not sure why you’re talking about college professors all of the sudden. Weren’t we talking about strangers luring elementary students with sweets? Why change the subject?

          What do you do? You send your child to a college that better suits your beliefs. If you want them to be taught about magic stories from the Bronze Age, then send them to Liberty University, or some such. If you want them to learn about physics and biology and literature and the world at large, then you send them to a reputable college that will teach them PROVEN FACTS about the world.
          You CAN’T protect your child from all the people they will meet in the world. You probably SHOULDN’T send them out into the world, with the idea that they NEED protection from everyone else. That is a good way to make sure they will think of everyone else as their enemy.

        • Gus

          We send adults to college.

          This article is about elementary school. Children under the age of twelve.

          You might not be aware that there is a very different assumption about what children under twelve can be exposed to versus junior high and high school, and yet further compared to college.

        • allein

          I was never humiliated by any professor in college. I went to a small, religiously-affiliated (but in-reality-secular) school in rural Pennsylvania. And while I was technically still a minor when I started (my birthday is late in the year), I was most certainly not a “child.”

    • Bdole

      Begone!

      • CommentMaker

        Typical atheist response. Try to be original.

        • Timmah

          Irony overload.

        • Spuddie

          For you the spray is meant to be taken orally or put directly into any other open orifice.

    • indorri

      Frankly, I am concerned with them targeting children. It’s creepy. If it were anyone else, it would be extremely suspect. It’s things like this that give predators targeting children cover.

    • Carmelita Spats

      You’re the one who’s nuttier than squirrel turd. It’s about child SAFETY. “Don’t talk to strangers” from the ’70′s morphed into “Don’t IM with strangers” in the ’90′s to “Don’t hang out with a creepy pastor who offers you cookies lest he beseech you to nibble communion wafers off his pallid thighs” in the ’00s.” Got it?

  • Nikita

    As a mom of a kid with allergies I would be pissed to see them offering food to children without permission from their parents and I highly doubt they would tell little Johnny to go ask his mom or dad before they handed over the cookie and started preaching.

    • JET

      And enticing them to cross the street to get one! The school administrators don’t have a problem with this? My kids didn’t have allergies, but I would be just as upset that someone was countermanding my orders to never talk to or accept food from strangers.

    • eric

      Yes, I completely agree. As a parent who will likely rely on the bus system and not be picking my kid up directly from school, it really pisses me off to see ANY organization – religious or not offering cookies with a side of ideology to elementary school kids just on the edge of the grounds. Its unethical, creepy stalker-like behavior and – as you point out – potentially dangerous to their health.

    • Frank Key

      From what we can see in the photo, there appears to be no regard or precautions for the childrens’ safety crossing that busy driveway or street in the upper right corner. Let one of those kids get hit by a car and that church would be in some deep doo-doo from the whole community. Besides, I’d be surprised if the Baptists and Lakewood Church members haven’t already expressed a few not so kind opinions of their own to the Methodists.

  • Without Malice

    No matter how disgusting we find their behavior, as long as they’re not on the school grounds I don’t see how anything can be done about it. We certainly can’t expect any kind of city ordinance to passed against the spreading of the “good news” in any city or town in the bible belt.

    • Without Malice

      Shakespeare was right, “To be or not to be, that is the question.” My post should read, “ordinance to be passed.”

    • kdp

      When I read the post, my first thought was, “somebody read Katherine Stewart’s book about the Good News clubs”.

    • Monika Jankun-Kelly

      Something we can do is the exact same thing they’re doing, get shut down, then call them out for demanding special treatment for being Christian. … Then listen to the whining about how we’re angry and mean and Christians are soooo persecuted.

    • skeptical_inquirer

      We can still make fun of them and point out that there’s a quote in the Bible that says that they should be quiet and not flaunt their religiosity. This is in Matthew 6:5-6:6.

      When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to
      stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they
      may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But
      you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray
      to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done
      in secret will reward you.

      • Frank

        I am sure you realize that Jesus is talking about those that want to be seen praying for self aggrandizement and not public prayer in general. Right? Praying For someone publicly is not the same thing as praying fro yourself publicly.

        • allein

          And what is their purpose in doing these prayers but to get attention for their church?

  • Michaela Samuels

    Do they get a button for joining, too? If only the advertised the dues a little more actively. Maybe that would be too much of a deterrent for their mission.

  • Frank

    What a great idea! Thanks for highlighting this. A church group close by to every school. Love it!

    • Lea Tapp

      I think every marketing avenue that exists for Christianity is already saturated. Good luck thinking of anything new.

      • Frank

        There are plenty of old ideas that work just great.

        • Timmah

          “She’s a witch BURN HER!” is working great overseas for you guys.

          • Frank

            Hyperbole and/or lies are never a good strategy.

            • Lee Miller

              Oh, really? Well maybe the church can stop what they’re doing across from this school then. Because both are in full force . . .

              • Frank

                I don’t know what the church teaches but if they stick to the bible then they are standing in truth and reality.

                • Matt D

                  Give that arrogant nugget of wisdom to say, Mormons or Muslims, and see if they agree with those empty headed presumptions.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  The same bible that says “suffer not a witch to live”, that one? Or is it the one that condones selling your daughter into sex slavery? Or perhaps the one where Jesus said slavery is totally a-ok and slaves shouldn’t try to run away? Possibly you mean the one that treats women as chattel property?

                  Oh right. Those are all the same book. Your holy text, that one is.

            • skeptical_inquirer

              There are still people being burned and killed overseas for witchcraft. So not a lie nor hyperbole.

              • Frank

                The strategy part is the lie.

                • busterggi

                  What lie? Executing people for bein ‘witches’ is routine for Christians in Africa and some parts of Asia.

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  Your comment is gibberish. Which is a step up from your usual lies and bigotry, really.

            • C.L. Honeycutt

              Agreed, which is why you should reconsider using them. In Africa, there is an epidemic of murders, including burnings, including small children, being carried out by Christians who believe them witches. Said murder are being funded by national Christian groups in the U.S., some of which you have almost certainly enabled.

              Enjoy reality, millstone.

            • Discordia

              Indeed they are not, so I have to wonder why you continue to use such tactics.

    • Oswald Carnes

      You sound positively aroused at the idea of getting your hands on children.

    • Gus

      Yelling at other people’s children and trying to entice them with cookies? Have you, at long last, no decency? You think yelling at school children is not only OK, it’s a great idea? You think it’s just great to try to lure in other people’s children to tempt them with your ideas? Primary school children? Please, whatever you do, leave my kids alone. If you want to reach a six year old, you ought to respect their parents enough to ask their permission before you try to convert their kid. But no, you’ve made it clear that you know you will fail too often if you approach adults, or even junior high students. You need to get them while they still believe in Santa Claus. Disgusting.

      • Frank

        Who is yelling except you?

        Kids deserve the truth even if their parents wont give it to them.

        • Raising_Rlyeh

          You’re right so when can I start telling your children the truth that is Optimus Prime died for our sins and we must worship him.

        • Gus

          Apparently you didn’t read the description above of what you’re praising where it clearly says they’re yelling. I however, am typing, without a single use of all caps or exclamation points, so I don’t know where you get the idea that I’m yelling.

        • Sweetredtele

          LOLZ! Frank, yer a hoot! Only those without evidence claim to have absolute knowledge. You can keep believing in an invisible homicidal maniac with a lack of morals all you want.

        • Gus

          Hey, why don’t we make a carnival of it? Set up a whole bunch of tables where anyone can make their pitch, complete with tempting sugary sweets and toys.

          We’ll have a table for Shia Islam, Sunni Islam, Sufism, B’hai, Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, LaVeyan Satanism, Ordo Templi Orientis, Scientology, Mormonism, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Church of the Subgenius, Catholicism, the Church of Euthanasia, and of course, one table saying the rest are all bunk.
          I mean, if it’s OK for you to tell your “truth” to other people’s kids, then everyone else gets to tell their truth to yours, too, right? Or is there an approved list?

          • busterggi

            FSM wins if there’s an all you can eat buffet!

            • Nikita

              Forget the ‘loaves and fish’, spaghetti & meatballs will feed the crowd!

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          Frank, why do you hate American values?

        • Nikita

          I hope you like the follow up lawsuits when a kid is hit by a car crossing the street or reacts to the food you gave them without parental permission.

        • Discordia

          Which is why atheists protest against the snake-oil selling religions who seem to constantly be trying to subvert children. You shouldn’t be promoting something for which there is no proof.

    • Spuddie

      I guess its too ironic to point out the ministers are acting like child molesters by luring unsuspecting children to property they control with sweets.

    • RobMcCune

      Of course you love it, what better way to keep the children from learning and thinking?

  • http://www.dirtydiaperchic.com/ laura g

    Free prayers? I’ve been being ripped off this whole time. GODDAMNIT.

  • Canadian Atheist, eh!

    How about this doozy? A few years back, I was living in Ottawa and out for an evening drive, whereupon I encountered a “non-denominational” church right next door to a public elementary school. On its front lawn, where every kid coming to school each day would be sure to see it, the church had one of those big back-lit signs with the black letters for custom messaging. On this particular evening (and for who knows how long before and after), guess what the message was?

    “Stop, drop and roll does not work in Hell.”

    Do I need to say more?

    • Mairianna

      It doesn’t work for nuclear bombs, either.

      • Mairianna

        Sorry…I was thinking, “duck and cover!”

        • Timmah

          In fairness nothing saves you from a nuclear blast except hiding in an old fridge anyways.

          • Mario Strada

            Actually, a great deal of a nuclear explosion is radiant heat. If you manage to put even a little bit of earth between you and the direct line of sight from the blast, and you are not too close to the epicenter, it may very well save your life. You can test that by sitting in front of a roaring fireplace and feel the radiant heat on your face. Take a magazine and use it as a shield and notice the difference.

            Of course, by so doing you can die a much more horrible death due to the fallout later on.

            My military overlords back in the day had that covered too. Our anti fallout kit was a gas mask, a plastic poncho and a brush. Presto! Good as new.

            The irony for me was that at the time I was a Lance Missile section Commander, so my job was to deliver tactical nukes a couple hundred miles over the border with yugoslavia (before it became the “former”). I must have bombed the crap out of it over the course of my military career. Except for the time when, after the mock launch was executed and we were back at CP for the post mortem we realized we had taken out Vienna.

            Our tactical nuke was about twice the power of the Hiroshima one. Quite small by cold war standards.

          • Sweetredtele

            It’s the lead in the paint.

          • suzeb1964

            So, when I was in school in the 60′s (yeah I am that old) and I had to crawl under my desk and put my head between my knees, I was not really protected from a nuclear blast? I was really just trying to bend over far enough to kiss my ass good-bye? Say it isn’t so!

          • Matt D

            Yes, but it requires you hum the Indiana Jones theme while doing so, otherwise you’ll never survive.

    • indorri

      It frustrates me the extent to which people that put up signs like this are so deluded and/or immoral that they will say things like this and excuse it with claiming it’s true.

      I am utterly convinced such people should actually be kept away from children.

    • eric

      I actually have less problem with the “pure messaging” of your example than I have with the OP’s messaging + cookies. Good, honest people should not be using enticements to get unchaperoned 8-12 year-olds to listen to them. If you want to just stand on your own property and speak your message without enticement, that’s actually somewhat more honest in my book.

  • C Peterson

    Churches should be subject to the same sorts of rules applied to marijuana dispensaries and porn shops (neither of which are as socially harmful as churches, of course), and zoned out of operating within a discrete distance (a block or two) of schools.

  • busterggi

    Free cookies? I would think fruit would be healthier but then Jesus doesn’t care about children’s health or he wouldn’t let 30,000 a day die from nutritional deficiancies.

    • Sweetredtele

      plus he hates figs.

    • Nikita

      You don’t win friends with salad.

      • 3lemenope

        You can if you do it right. Collard greens, quartered strawberries, sweet bell pepper, feta, and balsamic, perhaps with some shredded bacon and a smattering of crouton. Mmmmmmm.

        • Nikita

          Sounds good! When’s lunch? :)

  • sam

    It must be difficult to rape little children (their bodies or their minds) unless you first lure them with sweets. Just ask any priest.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Those bastards. I did this just last week, but suddenly I am the bad guy because I did it out of a van with darkened windows? What’s the diff?

  • Mitch

    If only the “body of Christ” actually tasted like cookies…

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    The churchgoers seem to be very carefully adhering to the law by staying on their property. That actually demonstrates an awareness of what they can and cannot do legally. Given the many incidents of religious groups and individuals flouting the law with impunity across the South, I’d say this is a good sign.

    I have admired Joe Zamecki for his activism in a very hostile environment over the last few years, and I agree with his exercising caution and prudence with his next door neighbors. The ubiquity of the churches in his area and the wall-to-wall religiosity of the culture in the region are annoying and frustrating for atheists, but that’s all this particular incident is, annoying and frustrating. Joe is taking the energy of those emotions and channelling it into positive, focused activism where it is needed, such as a church or public school somewhere else that is actually breaching the church/state barrier.

    The religionists will keep their annoying and frustrating majority for a few more generations in the South, but in just a few years it will be noticeably reduced, and in just one generation it will be significantly reduced.

    In Europe, people worked for their whole lives building a cathedral that they knew would not be finished even in their great grandchildren’s lifetimes. They were willing to be part of a very long term goal. With just a fraction of that kind of patience balanced with persistence, eventually reason and rationalism will prevail over superstition.

  • Gus

    So, setting aside whether what they’re doing is legal, do the Christian trolls here really think that continuously yelling chants at children who are doing nothing more than try to go to school is the way to win converts? That it’s kind? Christ-like? In any way appropriate?

  • Anna

    It’s a Methodist church, and a somewhat active one.

    File this one under “Methodists Behaving Badly.” I get so tired of the moderate, mainstream Protestants claiming that they’re so much better than the conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists, especially when they go and pull stunts like this! We really need a tag for Methodists because this isn’t the first negative post we’ve had about them.

    • allein

      I was raised Methodist. I cannot imagine the church I grew up in doing anything like this.

      I do think it’s at least partly a regional thing, though. I don’t see this sort of stuff in my area at all. We have our share of fun church signs and whatnot (one I pass on my way to work currently says “Jesus recycles us”), and I see personal reflections of religiosity like magnets on cars and stuff, but organized, obnoxiously loud obvious things like this, no. I’ve never been harassed by religion while going about my day. At lunch today we actually were talking about religion and I was saying I don’t think I’d be very welcome in the south. I have a feeling I’d not be too comfortable in a town like this.

    • Gus

      Methodists pretty much run the gamut. My church growing up was pretty hands off, but then there are the ones where you’re still not allowed to dance, and the ones that are more serious about their proselytizing. And last I checked, the UMC’s offical stance on marriage equality is the wrong one. But you can usually at least count on them for a metaphorical reading of the Bible that doesn’t argue for creationism. But like I said, they run the gamut, so your results may vary.

  • Bitter Lizard

    Here’s what you do: set up a booth that offers treats to kids in exchange for having them sign their souls over to Satan.

  • unclemike

    Man, if only Christians had some kind of…oh, I don’t know…a book that laid out all of their beliefs and then let people either embrace or reject it based on what is actually written in it, instead of luring underaged kids with promises of sugary snacks.

    • Frank

      If only people would actually take the time to understand something instead of displaying their ignorance so publicly. No one said atheists were smart…oh wait they do… hmmm.

      • ToonForever

        Unintended irony, now available in economy size…
        See Frank for details.

      • Matt D

        Speaking of “understanding something”, how did you decide one religion is cannot be wrong, out of a thousand to choose from? Which holy texts of other faiths convinced you that the religion you’ve chosen, is the right one?

        • Matt D

          Your silence still answers my question, and another example of your dishonesty is now online for others viewing pleasure. Thanks!

          • C.L. Honeycutt

            Now now, Matt, give him some time. A person who can’t figure out Google would naturally be slow at other processes.

      • Spuddie

        …And you should always trust that kindly old bicycle shop owner with your kids. The one who gives them sweets, some alcohol, takes photos of them and plays games like “Neptune, king of the sea.”

        • Gus

          Is that an episode of Different Strokes?

          • Spuddie

            Yes. The infamous “very special one”.

            One of those television moments which becomes nightmare fuel when one is old enough to realize what was left unsaid.

            • Gus

              Yes, and obviously is burned into my brain enough that I remembered it from the recesses of childhood from that brief description. *shudder*

      • Sweetredtele

        Explain then Matthew 6 5-6 to me and then explain why they are not doing as instructed by Jesus. I mean, if we do’t need to abide by God’s word in this instance, why do we need to abide at all? How do i know what he really meant for us to follow? Can I treat the salvation sayings of Jesus the same way people treat his other sayings?

      • RobMcCune

        You’re right, UncleMike should have known christianity depends on manipulating unsuspecting children.

  • Tom

    Something that’s always bugged me: staying on your own (or public) property is one thing there seem to be strict laws about, but what if you’re deliberately projecting your voice, or other noise, out of that property, either indiscriminately or in a directed beam into someone else’s property?

    • Matt D

      I have an apartment that’s right next to a busy intersection, and several months ago, a group of churchgoers decided it was a nice place to shout Xtian arrogance at everyone during rush hour.
      .
      Needless to say, they didn’t appreciate being asked to stop shouting, since *everyone* needed to hear what they had to say. Sometimes they’d even put a new person in that spot so I or my roomies would have to start over with a newbie, making us look bad. I did think that was clever, but I naturally got sick of their duplicity and blatant disrespect, so I retaliated.
      .
      I simply put my PC speakers out the window and full blasted Rob Zombie. They were close enough to hear the music, and I deduced the children they had with them are their weakest link. Thus, I chose a popular song of his, guessing these theists wanted attention, not competition.
      .
      So, after ten minutes, the man took his daughters and fled, and they got the message and haven’t returned to that corner (although they still use the other three corners, there are no apartments there, and I can’t hear them at all). Frankly, I’m annoyed that polite conversation didn’t convince them to respect others, but now I can laugh at the incident.

    • skeptical_inquirer

      I still think that you can call the cops if they’re noisy. After all, you can call the cops if a party is spectacularly loud.

    • Gus

      IANAL, but as far as I know there are definitely limits. Many localities have noise ordinances, and there’s almost always such a thing as disturbing the peace, as well as the notion of the “quiet enjoyment” of your home. However if the noise is associated with protest, or even religious expression, the free speech rights of the noise makers must be weighed against the rights of their neighbors to the quiet enjoyment of their homes. So it’s a tricky balance at best, at worst, local police are unlikely to ever side against a church.

  • Spuddie

    So a church is taking its promotional cue from child molesters?

  • Tom in Raleigh

    I may be in the minority here, but this seems to be well within their rights to do.

    If the school administrators are not involved, and they are on their own property, they seem to be well within their rights.

    Are kids leaving school and going over alone? Or is this something that is happening with parents?

    • Spuddie

      I don’t think anyone is challenging it as illegal.

      Everyone here is saying it is tasteless and a bit creepy because of the whole lack of parental consent thing.

      • phantomreader42

        Not to mention the whole “epidemic of child rape by religious leaders” thing.

  • Birdie1986

    As someone that lives in a similar community just north of Katy, I commend your efforts, but the battle is up a very steep hill. I try to stop things like this as I see them, but then I’m just “the angry atheist” (even to my own husband).

  • Matt D

    There’s a great idea, teaching elementary school children to not only take candy and sweets from strangers, but they should be listened to.

    • 3lemenope

      You can if you do it right. Collard greens, quartered strawberries, sweet bell pepper, feta, and balsamic, perhaps with some shredded bacon and a smattering of crouton. Mmmmmm.

      EDIT: Wrong thread! :-O

  • suzeb1964

    How Pavlovian…”Listen to our biblical nonsense, and we’ll reward you with a cookie.” Wish I could be there and tell them to keep their behavior modification to themselves.

  • Hypmur

    Isn’t luring children with cookies kinda a pedo thing? Oh, they probably got that idea from one of their priests… makes sense now. They asked the master how to lure children. Other than that there’s no big deal. Just asking young children to cross the road alone. No big deal.

  • Sarah-Sophia

    What they are doing is wrong but it is inaccurate to portray them as sex predators. Giving children food is not what makes someone a sex offender.

    • Spuddie

      Why not?

      They are offering children food to induce them to come onto the property WITHOUT THEIR PARENT’S PERMISSION OR KNOWLEDGE.

      • allein

        Actually it sounds like parents were there. This isn’t on a regular school day but a special event:

        It looks like Orientation Day, so all of the new students and their parents are at the school,

        Not that it makes it any better.

        • Spuddie

          The church didn’t try to contact parents in the area first, they just sprang up the “attractive nuisance” to lure the kids from the school.

          The fact that parents were present being a “happy bonus” but not part of the church’s plans.

          • allein

            Probably true. Though they may have chosen this day knowing that parents would be there so at least they could say they weren’t targeting kids without their parents around. Or they saw something was going on at the school and ran out and bought some cookies and set up shop.

            Like I said, it doesn’t make what they’re doing any better.

  • phantomreader42

    I’m surprised they weren’t operating this “ministry” out of a windowless van. And I’m surprised the catholic cult didn’t think of this idea first, given their extensive experience in luring children and taking advantage of them.

  • SeekerLancer

    “Katy is a tiny little conservative town in the Bible Belt, nestled next to the crown jewel of that belt, Houston.”

    A bit of an exaggeration, it’s a lot better than Dallas/Ft. Worth.

    Any city with a democrat lesbian mayor is no Christian stronghold. It’s a very multicultural city not just by southern standards but by any standards and has a pretty impressive free-thought community. I suggest you check out the Houston Atheists if you haven’t already.

    Texas is still Texas, sure, the Christians are the loudest and Houston is no Austin when it comes to liberalism, but it’s no “crown jewel” of the bible belt.

    Now, some of the surrounding towns maybe…

  • CanadianNihilist

    People need to teach their kids not go approach strangers offering free things, like cookies. There would be a lot less kidnappings and child molestation with a little more parental guidance.

  • Itsrealfunnythat

    Ah I remember that… My school had weekly “parties” with games and fun that ultimately lead to prayer and indoctrination…

  • E. Quinn Knoxx

    As a Houstonian, Katy is not that small. It is engulfed in the liberal voting metropolis of Houston. This is obviously a desperate act on the part of the church. Katy is not the podunk city it was 30 years ago on the outskirts of Houston. It is a very modern progressive suburb now.

    Good luck “Christians”…you might as well fight in the Montrose district.

  • Whitney

    I keep hearing this voice in the back of my head going “Want some candy, little girl?”

    Which is really pathetic when you get down to it, and yes, a bit frightening, too. What they’re really saying is “We can’t get new members by honest means, we’ve got to resort to bribing kids with cookies. Yeah, we suck.”

  • Scott Musselman

    Hmmm, The dark side really does have cookies.

    • Nikita

      I would like to upvote this at least a dozen times… perhaps a baker’s dozen.


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