Grand Junction parents are voicing their concern that their children attending District 51 elementary schools are being sent home home with fliers soliciting weekly attendance at Bible study classes held immediately after school on school grounds. The Child Evangelism Fellowship is actively working to recruit new converts to Christianity by promoting “Good News Club” meetings to be held weekly within local public school buildings from about 1:45 to 3:15 p.m. Times apparently vary according to individual school schedules. Parents have reported via a local Facebook group that fliers and posters promoting the religious classes have shown up at Tope, Broadway and Pomona elementary schools.
The mission of the Child Evangelism Fellowship is “to evangelize boys and girls with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and establish (disciple) them with the Word of God and in a local church for Christian living.”
Concerned parents say a public school is an inappropriate place to carry that mission out, and grade school-aged kids won’t be able to distinguish between regular school classes and the Bible study classes. They also feel such religious activities would be more appropriately held in a church than in a taxpayer-funded public school building.
This isn’t the first time kids have been sent home from District 51 schools with fliers promoting a specific religious group, either.
One local parent recalls that when her children, who are now older, attended area elementary schools, they were mocked by their classmates who told them they would “go hell for having the wrong beliefs.” She said her children’s classmates “had an explanation from the Bible to explain why a black man couldn’t be president,” and that the discussion started over a concern about another incident when a similar flyer was sent home. She was told the flier was “accidentally” sent home with her child, but soon found out that the fliers were also being distributed at several other local schools.
For its part, the Child Evangelism Fellowship is adamant about pushing Christianity into public schools, and goes as far as it possibly can in doing so. The group defends its actions on its website:
“Can we really teach the Bible in public schools?
Yes! The Gospel has been taught freely in public schools all over the world for some time. Now children in the U.S. have that opportunity, too! In 2001 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Good News Clubs v. Milford Central School that Good News Clubs can meet in public schools in the United States after school hours on the same terms as other community groups. Children attend Good News Club only with their parents’ permission.”
Alarmed District 51 parents argue that distributing the fliers on school grounds, during school time is a tacit endorsement of the religious activity, and violates the separation of church and state. They argue that other after-school clubs, like a basketball or chess club for example, are different because they do not coerce children to follow a specific religion. One parent argues it is not a school’s place to promote one religion over another, or any religion, regardless of whether it is an after school or in-school activity.
District 51 is investigating the posters and distribution of fliers at the local elementary schools and will address parental concerns next week.