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Published On: Sun, Jul 22nd, 2018

Colorado judge rules against school which promoted FCA mission trip as ‘proselytizing’

A federal district court in Colorado ruled that a public school district’s fundraising for and promotion of a Fellowship of Christian Athletes mission trip to Guatemala violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The court sided against the school because “[t]he very concept of a mission trip has religious intimations,” the court found, the activities of school officials in supporting the “overtly religious” trip had the effect of advancing religion and entangled the government with religion impermissibly.

The judge highlighted the fact that officials sent flyers and emails promoting the trip, and solicited funds and supplies to assist participants.

Here is an excerpt from the opinion by U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson:

The avenues by which these emails and flyers were sent are cause for concern in and of themselves, as the use of official public school platforms should not be intermingled with the promotion of religion. The language in the emails and flyers noting that the District was “partner[ing] with” an openly Christian organization in their proselytizing efforts is also concerning. . . .

Further, the supplies collected in the supply drive were clearly intended to be taken and used on the mission trip—the flyer stated that “FCA students will take [donated supplies] with them to run camps during their Spring Break mission to San Pedro”—and indeed the beads solicited in the supply drive and donated by Cougar Run students were apparently used to make “Salvation Bracelets” to tell the story of Jesus. As such, the items collected at Cougar Run were used to directly promote a Christian message.

gavel court scales justice ruling

photo via Pixabay user Succo

The court concealed the parent’s identity in the documents, referring to her only as Jane Zoe.

“As non-Christians, the school’s actions in promoting and endorsing a Christian organization … made us feel like outsiders and unwelcome in our own community,” according to Zoe’s complaint.

Zoe and the American Humanist Association filed a lawsuit claiming the school violated the Establishment Clause. That’s the part of the First Amendment that prohibits the government from endorsing a particular religion.

The FCA chapter planned a trip through an organization called Adventures in Missions with stated goals to “promote Christianity” and to “introduce [children] to the Bible,” according to a court document. A total of 14 high school students and two teachers went on the trip during spring break of 2014.

 

About the Author

- Catherine "Kaye" Wonderhouse, a proud descendant of the Wunderhaus family is the Colorado Correspondent who will add more coverage, interviews and reports from this midwest area.

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