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Published On: Mon, Jan 29th, 2018

Indiana school district to FFRF atheists: you are wrong, pastor led program doesn’t contain religion, Bible verses

A school district in Indiana has rebuked an atheist group’s demand that it dissolve a pastor-led program during the lunch period after investigating the matter and finding that no religious instruction is provided during the offering, writing “There is no religious content in the curriculum. There are no Bible verses, references to any spiritual deity, or any activities that expose students to any religious concepts.”

Wisconsin’s Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) had sent a letter to the East Porter County School Corporation earlier this month after it had reportedly been contacted by several parents of students who attend Kouts Middle/High School.

The parents advised that two pastors from Heartland Christian Church have been leading the voluntary program “Elevate” during lunchtime.

photo/ Gerd Altmann

“It is inappropriate and unconstitutional for the district to offer religious leaders access to befriend and proselytize students during the school day on school property,” the letter read. “No outside adults should be provided carte blanche access to minors—a captive audience—in a public school. This predatory conduct is inappropriate and should raise red flags.”

“The district cannot allow its schools to be used for religious instruction during the school day,” the correspondence asserted. “We write to request assurances that this practice be stopped immediately.”

Superintendent Rod Gardin responded to FFRF on Tuesday to advise the atheist activist group that it had mischaracterized the Elevate program.

“In response to your assertion that the school corporation is allowing religious instruction to occur during the school day at Kouts Middle/High School through the Elevate Students program, I analyzed the curriculum used in the program,” he wrote. “There is no religious content in the curriculum. There are no Bible verses, references to any spiritual deity, or any activities that expose students to any religious concepts.”

Gardin also outlined that none of the videos that are shown to students who choose to attend Elevate contain any religious references. He noted that the program teaches character qualities to youth, but from a nonsectarian standpoint.

“I spoke with the facilitator of the program, Matt Willingham. Mr. Willingham confirmed that no verses from any type of religious text are used,” Gardin added. “He added that he would be happy to meet with any parent or group of parents who would like to know more about Elevate Students.”

The superintendent therefore requested that FFRF remove the erroneous information from its website and replace it with an apology.

“It’s unfathomable that public school officials are permitting pastors to come in and sermonize to an essentially captive audience of school kids trying to eat lunch,” FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor had said in a statement, which is still posted to the group’s press release section. “Surely, they have to know that this is completely inappropriate under the law.”

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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  1. Dennis Lurvey says:

    Non sectarian means all sects of christianity, it does not mean no religion, it means no specific sect of christianity. Govt may not prefer one religion over others or religion over irreligion. The school is violating both of those prongs.

    • Brandon Jones says:

      There is no religion being used. NO Bible verses, no preaching. Do you NOT believe the school officials? Do you believe NONE of the teachers should ever be pastors also?

  2. RussellsTeaPot says:

    A pastor can proselytize without quoting passages from the Bible.

    On a related note, when will they let Imams and Hindu Sadhu participate in this program? Will Buddhist scholars and Satanists also have a chance? I’m sure The Satanic Temple would be willing to send mentors.

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