It’s as if school administrators have never heard of the Constitution.
Yesterday, a parent from Kappa, Illinois contacted me to express her anger about her local junior high school’s planned 7th grade field trip. Her son had just come home with a flyer and permission slip announcing the field trip planned for May 25th at Camp Good News, another arm of Child Evangelism Fellowship, the parent company of the Good News Club. Camp Good News seems to follow a similar pattern of deceit that we’ve seen with the Good News Club, in that permission slips (below) aren’t clear about the type of religious instruction kids will receive. In the example provided by this parent, the permission slip just states who runs the club (CEF) and gives a website for more information. What’s left out is that kids will be taught fundamentalist Christian “lessons” and will likely be coerced through fear and intimidation to pledge their lives to Christ. But… ziplines, am I right?
The school, El Paso-Gridley Junior High, has been contacted by the parent but has not yet responded to her message. Yesterday I contacted FFRF and they’ve escalated the issue to their attorneys for a letter to be sent. I’ve also sent an email to the school district’s superintendent to inform him of the Constitutional violation, urging him to redirect the field trip, and all future trips, to a different destination. I’ll update this story below as responses come in.
This field trip to Camp Good News, and it’s accompanying ready-made permission slip, is frightening on multiple levels. First, sending children of multiple or no religious background to a destination like this could have lasting negative psychological effects. After all, CEF teaches kids that they’re inherently flawed, and these defects they have no control over will send them to a dark place of eternal separation from everyone they love. Unless — unless they accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior and pledge their allegiance to him.
Secondly, they’re taught that every word of the Bible is true, despite its contradictions and supernatural (and scientifically debunked) content, throwing a wrench into any and all evidence-based science education they may have received in the public school system. What CEF does to children is abhorrent and an affront to critical thinking.
What I see when looking at this permission slip is that school field trips to Camp Good News are probably not uncommon. It’s a well-organized generic form meant to be used by multiple schools. That’s horrific. The idea that school administrators would have ignorance of, or blatant disregard for, the laws that apply to the children trusted into their care is appalling.
Looks like I have some more investigating to do.
UPDATE: El Paso-Gridley Junior High has canceled the field trip to Camp Good News, notifying parents via email from the school’s principal:
Dear 7th Grade Parents,
I just wanted to let you know that we are not going to be going to Camp Good News for the 7th grade field trip. If your student has already brought in their permission slip and money we will send it home with them today.
I apologize for the confusion.