One of the young people who joined President Trump at the White House on National Religious Freedom Day this year was Chase Windebank, son of Ken Windebank, Chief Operating Officer at Focus on the Family.
Chase was invited after the White House heard of his legal battle with his former high school, Pine Creek High School in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
While a freshman, Chase began a small group for students to pray during a free period in the gym at their school. The prayer group was started after school administrators said there could be no before-school prayer groups on site.
Initially, 10 to 20 students would meet in the group. But by his senior year, the group had grown to 90 students meeting twice a week during their free period to pray and worship in the gym.
When the group reached such a large size, school officials shut down the prayer gathering, telling Chase they could no longer meet because of “Separation of church and state,” (which does not exist in the U.S. Constitution.)
Chase replied by providing copies of some laws protecting their right to religious expression, but ultimately got help from the Alliance for Defending Freedom (ADF), an advocacy organization that focuses on protecting religious freedom.
“Other kids are using this time to play pickup basketball games or talk to their teachers or talk to their friends,” Chase says he told school officials. “We do have the right to pray.”
After ADF filed a federal complaint against Colorado’s Academy District #20, the school reversed its decision and allowed the students to meet and pray during school hours.
In 2020, Chase was contacted by the White House to tell his story nationwide on National Religious Freedom Day.
On January 16, President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order to ensure that religious entities are not excluded from participating in government-funded programs.