School bringing in prosperity gospel anti-evolution preacher, Joel Osteen

Why?

Why?  Why?  Why?  Why?  Why?  Why?  Why?  Why?  Why!!??

Ok, here’s the deal.  Joel Osteen is headed to DC to pray with some people.  Big whoop.  But beforehand he’s gonna swing by a local elementary.  I got this email from a concerned parent.

So in advance of his crusade, he’s coming to the school closest to the stadium. No other religious leader from any other faith tradition- or no faith tradition at all- was asked to take part. I confirmed this at the school today.

Allegedly, his wife will be reading “The Lorax,” and there won’t be any praying. Joel will be doing landscaping around the school grounds. I can’t imagine there won’t be plenty of photo opps.

I raised my concerns to the vice principal about the appearance of school and district endorsement of Osteen and was asked by the vice principal, “Your kid isn’t in the Kindergarten, 1st or 2nd grade, so what’s your problem?”

Fewer than 20% of these students read at grade level. Fewer than 13% are grade level in science.  Just 16% are doing grade-level maths. And the best the school and local government can do is bring in a megapastor who espouses prosperity gospel and anti-evolutionism to read to these poorly-taught students.

It’s legal to have them there, so long as they don’t pray or evangelize.  Of course, I don’t trust them enough to be good and secular while in the school.  I’d love to be surprised.

The thing that kills me is the reaction from the vice principal.  As high school organizer at the SSA I can assure you that more often than not (I’m not exaggerating) school admins are willing to be somewhat underhanded about religion in public schools.  Often it’s accompanied with this type of flippancy toward people who express concern about it.

The way to combat it is for me or the FFRF to send them letters explaining how the law works.  Since the school isn’t breaking any laws here though (greeeeeeeeeey area), we go to plan B: name and shame.

Here are the people who could stand to build character.  You can help by sending them emails.

Chancellor Kaya Henderson
1200 First Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002
Telephone: (202) 442-5885
Fax: (202) 442-5026
To e-mail: http://dcps.dc.gov/DCPS/About+DCPS/Contact+Us/Ask+the+Chancellor

Amidon-Bowen Vice Principal Dwayne Ham
dwayne.ham@dc.gov
401 I St. SW Washington, DC 20024.
Phone: 724-4867
Fax: 724-4868

Let them know that, especially in the DC area, there are much better options to bring to the school than people who lie to children about science.

  • Molly

    I’m going to be contrary here:

    If Osteen isn’t praying, or preaching, or discussing religious topics, I don’t see a problem here. Do I like him? No. Am I disgusted at how he makes millions off of lying to people and giving them false hope that God will take away all their problems? Yes.

    But, again, if he’s not giving that message to the children, then I don’t see how this is terribly different from Sasha Gray reading to school children.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      I actually understand that position.

      My issue is that even if he flies straight (which I suspect he won’t), you can still do better than someone who speaks against science and is essentially a high profile con man.

      • Marie

        SInce you were not there and I was, I will speak to this. This man and his wife did not preach anything to these children. It was a media event for him and in exchange the kids got a book to read at home. The kids loved having a “famous” guest, the loved seeing the mascot from the Nationals, they loved to be the center of attention to someone. You seem like a hateful person and I am sad you don’t appreciate the teachers or the events at Amidon Bowen. Maybe you should try a different school next year.

        • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

          It was a media event for him and in exchange the kids got a book to read at home.

          You just doomed the people you were trying to defend. This is the illegal part. You just provided another testimony that it happened.

          I am not a hateful person, but I do hate some things. I hate religion with every bone in my body. It is the only institution telling people that it is ok to be irrational. This is poison for humanity.

          I also hate people who break the law with abandon, especially when it is their charge obey it as an administrator at a school.

          Nobody should appreciate that, and you’re not successfully propping yourself up as superior by asserting that you do.

          • Marie

            Where did I state I was superior? I hate religion too. So what. No one was religious during this stupid event. You don’t have to ask people to secretly photograph the goings on today at Amidon Bowen. F-ing Entertainment Tonight was there! It is no secret! Why didn’t you come over when you heard it was happening? Let it go.

          • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

            You seem like a hateful person

            Unless you don’t think you’re better than hateful people, a quality you presumably think is bad.

            I hate religion too.

            Then you should care when they break the law. Here is a picture from the book (that I had to acquire to show people like you).

            It reads, “To a strong and mighty generation who will develop and use their gifts to inspire others, and be ushered into the greater things of Christ.” This violates government neutrality. I work with high school students via a not-for-profit. Part of my job every week is writing high school administrators emails explaining how they are breaking the law. I’ve been involved in the launching of lawsuits. I know of which I speak.

            If you truly hate religion, you should hate when they break the law to get Christ into the hands of kids.

            You don’t have to ask people to secretly photograph the goings on today at Amidon Bowen.

            For people who are going to come here and tell me that nothing religious took place, apparently I do. And what if the need arises to involve lawyers? Then evidence will be required.

            Why didn’t you come over when you heard it was happening?

            I live in Ohio.

            Let it go.

            No. Are you always so dismissive when somebody is upset about the law being broken? It’s every lawbreakers dream that “let it go” would work.

            It won’t.

    • tubi

      I’m preparing a letter right now to my son’s district demanding that they invite Sasha Grey to come in and read “Fox in Socks.”

    • iknklast

      As a science teacher, I can tell you that when the school brings in a speaker who (elsewhere) speaks against evolution, it lends the imprint of the school to that individual’s views. I’ve seen it repeatedly in my students (college-age) who were fed this diet at lower levels. I’ve also seen the damage that merely havign anti-evolution books in the college libraries can do, even if no one is assigning anyone to read them (in the Oklahoma anti-evolution sticker war of the late 1990s, the woman who pushed it in the school board was able to demonstrate that a local university had 3 or 4 anti-evolution books in the library, and therefore, it must be legitimate and scientific).

      Schools should not invite these people, even if they do not pray or proselytize when they’re on school grounds. They are immediately assuming all the baggage that comes with the speaker, because students see the school as telling them “see, what this guy thinks is valid, or we wouldn’t have him here”. It’s not about legal/illegal, it’s about common sense and being responsible for consequences.

    • IslandBrewer

      You know, if it was announced that Sasha Gray was coming to a Kindergarten to read Fox in Socks, there would be an immediate outrage and the school district would be down the principal’s throat (metaphorically)before the principal knew what was happening.

      (Ironically, the most outraged ones would be those who immediately recognized who Sasha Gray was.)

      Some famous evolution-denyin’ pastor who likely has an ulterior motive? School District won’t even raise an eyebrow.

  • Jeremy Shaffer

    But, again, if he’s not giving that message to the children, then I don’t see how this is terribly different from Sasha Gray reading to school children.

    I think the biggest difference in that case would be that Sasha Gray could be better trusted to stick with simply reading a book and not straying into areas she is otherwise more known for than Osteen.

  • http://ARFreethinkers.org LeeWood

    We just need someone to shadow Olsteen’s appearance with their voice recorder ON so we can clearly hear if his visit is secular or if he tries to push Jesus on the kids. That simple

  • Kevin

    Something like this just happened in Asheville, NC.

    There was a weeklong revival downtown, and as part of that effort, these people volunteered to do some landscaping at a public middle school. They also volunteered to give a non-religious “motivational” speech for the kids.

    After the speech, the principle sent an apology letter to each and every parent, saying that the content strayed far from what had been agreed upon and was proselytizing.

    One of the kids quoted in the newspaper write-up said that the entire landscaping project was “tainted” for her because of the speech.

    Do NOT believe them. They will lie any lie to get a group of tiny ears.

  • IslandBrewer

    DAMMIT! I can’t get the picture of Sasha Gray sitting in one of those little Kindergarten chairs reading Fox in Socks outta my head!

  • Molly

    I guess my concern is that if we raise a stink about Osteen speaking to the children, after he’s agreed to keep it “clean,” we, the secular community, will be painted as unfairly excluding him.

    Some things to consider: Did the school invite him, or did he volunteer? Is he just going to read the book, or give a talk as well?

    • Mike D

      Yes, I agree. We’re missing a lot of the information here that would allow us to develop a rational opinion about this situation.

      I think we can all agree we’d rather the hyper-religious weren’t around schools at all, we can’t really complain about purely secular interaction. It almost makes your head spin to think that you might need someone there to supervise his visit and make sure he’s staying true to his promise.

      • Kevin

        Again, I repeat myself. We just went through this EXACT experience in Asheville.

        The god-bots promised that their speech would be “motivational” and not religious.

        What they got was far from it.

        They lied. It’s what they do.

        Do NOT trust them.

  • http://blogingproject.blogspot.com/ Ing: I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream So I Comment Instead

    I guess my concern is that if we raise a stink about Osteen speaking to the children, after he’s agreed to keep it “clean,” we, the secular community, will be painted as unfairly excluding him.

    It’s impossible to look good, stop trying to keep up appearances.

  • http://livingafterfaith.com Deanna Joy Lyons

    I agree with JT. Osteen can’t be trusted to keep away from his religion. To a person like him, his only purpose in life is to recruit more people into his church, it is, in his mind, the most important thing in all eternity. He and all the other Liars for Jesus can’t help themselves.

  • Jamila Bey

    The students will be given copies of “Gifts from the Heart,” Mrs. Osteen’s book dedicated “To a strong and mighty generation who will develop and use their gifts to inspire others, and be ushered into the greater things of Christ.”

    It’s raining in Washington, so no gardening and beautification of the school looks likely today.

    The event should be taped.

    • Molly

      Thank you. That changes everything. Looks like he’s spreading his lies and fairy tales after all.

    • Marie

      Again you weren’t there so you should probably not make assumptions. The front of the school was worked on very diligently by a group of adults. I have no idea who they were. They worked hard. They didn’t interfere with any instruction. They front of the school was a mess and now it looks pretty. So what. There was no speaking of God or Jesus or evolution. It was just a nice reading of a book for kids who don’t have many books at home. It happened during our recess and a little into our buddy reading time. We didn’t get to go to our specials for the day so the kids got even more instruction than usual. I am in no way religious or supportive of any religious activities that are forced on me on my students. Let it go. Quit making something out of nothing. Tomorrow those poorly taught children will come back to my classroom. They will come in with big smiles on their faces, give me a huge hug, tell me something funny, eat breakfast and then get to work. They work hard and so do I.

      • TV200

        Be that as it may, the reading from, and distribution of, that particular book is what is illegal, and not in an ambiguous way either. I understand that the teachers and students in DC all have an uphill struggle. My small business,in the District, has helped schools that have approached us with their fund raising efforts. Over the past 2 years, our assistance has helped them raise about $8000 to be used in the schools. As such, I am incredibly disappointed in this schools judgment in allowing a wildly popular evangelist to be a guest speaker. With so many wonderful science museums here, Joel Osteen just seems like a bad choice, one that led to illegal actions.

  • Epistaxis

    Mr. Ham,

    I am writing to inquire whether you or Mr. and Mrs. Osteen intend to pay all legal fees the school district will accrue in any suit resulting from your apparent decision to break the law knowingly and willingly by inviting them to “usher [the students of Amidon-Bowen] into the greater things of Christ”, or whether you plan to hold the taxpayers responsible and take this out of the budget that is supposed to be used for education.

    Best,

  • John

    “Fewer than 20% of these students read at grade level. Fewer than 13% are grade level in science. Just 16% are doing grade-level maths”

    Would you care to cite those numbers for the K, 1st and 2nd Grade as you implied in your article?