IL Grade School Promotes Creationism at Event Run by District Leader’s Church

Back in January, students at Central Grade School in Effingham, Illinois were treated to an in-school presentation about dinosaurs. It was organized by Effingham Community School Board President Jeff Michael and put on — unbeknownst to the kids — by Christ’s Church, where Michael serves as pastor.

That may be shady… but the presentation itself was secular in nature.

The problem occurred later on. As kids left the room, they were handed a flyer telling them that a similar event would go on that Saturday, and they were encouraged to bring their parents. The event included a “mobile museum” with a makeshift T-Rex skull, a dinosaur egg, etc.

Meanwhile, a different flyer was being given to other members of the community. This one promoted the same presentation but also included information about a separate event the following day that would look at “dinosaurs and how they are described in the Bible.” It also pointed out how both presentations were run by the “Creation Truth Foundation.”

Again, maybe that’s shady, but at least they’re keeping the two events separate right? The benefit-of-the-doubt assumption was that the Saturday presentation would be secular while Sunday’s would be religious.

That’s not what happened.

Some parents thought they were bringing their children to learn about dinosaurs on Saturday at Central Grade School in Effingham. But they said the program turned out to be about a creationist view of thunder lizards, put on by a group called the Creation Truth Foundation.

Kenny Martin took two of his children to the event.

“It’s really strange what he was believing,” Martin said. “That there were dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark and humans walking with dinosaurs.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has now written a letter to the District’s superintendent warning him against letting this happen again.

Michael’s promotion of the event to public school students gives the appearance that he is deliberately using his position as school board president to promote his church’s religious mission, FFRF asserts. Inviting ministers or other church representatives to discuss topics like evolution or paleontology raises the obvious specter of creationism. When the same presenters also offer weekend presentations teaching creationism — i.e., that evolution and paleontology are false — the appearance of a religious purpose is overwhelming.

FFRF requests that the district take reasonable steps to ensure that future school presentations do not include the promotion of religious events and that it discourages the use of unqualified church representatives to teach students about paleontology.

“This event was an underhanded way to sneak in nonsensical propaganda into the public school system,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Such young kids should not be subjected to this absurdity.”

This sort of religious promotion often goes undetected because people don’t realize how illegal it is. The problem is even worse in smaller towns that are overwhelmingly religious. But local reporting exposed the ruse and a concerned parent in the District alerted the right people. You can be sure District officials are now aware they’re being watched carefully.

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