This weekend the Freedom From Religion Foundation – Denver chapter met to mail letters to Colorado school district superintendents and State Board of Education members. The letters educate school district staff about common church-state violations and how to prevent them.
Each year the national office of the Freedom From Religion Foundation addresses thousands of state-church violations around the nation, more than half of which involve public schools. FFRF attorneys have written to Colorado school districts about such violations in the past two school years.
Most recently, The Todd Becker Foundation, a Christian ministry, was scheduled to appear at a Burlington Middle School assembly on Nov. 28, 2018. FFRF sent letters to the Burlington School District and several area school districts that were scheduled to attend the event, warning them that it will involve members of the Todd Becker Foundation reading from the bible and praying with students, which is a violation of the Establishment Clause.
We sent the letters with an accompanying pamphlet “Top 10 Public School State/Church Violations” to help educate district staff on how to protect students’ rights of conscience.
The FFRF Metro Denver Chapter is available to answer any questions and assist in providing attorneys from our national office.
Read the letter here.
Report a State/Church violation here.
FFRF is shocked to discover a Colorado school district has explicitly and unconstitutionally consented to a religious group running an assembly and individually meeting to pray with students during school hours.
The Todd Becker Foundation, a Christian ministry, is scheduled to appear at a Burlington Middle School Assembly on Nov. 28. FFRF has sent a letter to the district asking that it cancel this religious event. In addition, it filed an open records request and received the extremely troubling agreement the district has signed with the group.
The open records request revealed that District Superintendent Tom Satterly signed the agreement openly stating that a bible verse will be included in the assembly and that members of the Todd Becker Foundation would be meeting individually with students, which will “involve them referencing a helpful Bible passage.”
Knowing that FFRF often warns schools against following through with these types of unconstitutional religious assemblies and subsequently opening themselves up to expensive legal liability, the Todd Becker Foundation included in the contract a cancellation fee of $6,215.
The Todd Becker Foundation travels throughout the Midwest putting on assemblies in public schools with the explicit purpose of converting students to its brand of evangelical Christianity. Oftentimes, it infiltrates public schools under the guise of offering a secular presentation, despite its purpose being laid out in no uncertain terms on its website.
“The Foundation’s purpose is to motivate high school students to discover their potentials and ultimately discover themselves by placing their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior,” its website reads.
After receiving the contract from the district, which made explicitly clear The Todd Becker Foundation’s intentions with this assembly, FFRF Legal Fellow Christopher Line sent a follow-up to his first letter.
“This agreement should have raised many red flags and alerted you to the potential legal liability that allowing an outside religious group to proselytize to your students presents,” Line writes in his email to Satterly. “It is alarming that a public school official like yourself would not only allow this religious assembly, but also agree to provisions which prevent you from being able to stop representatives of the Todd Becker Foundation from praying and proselytizing to your students.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is doubling down on its insistence that this event be cancelled.
“This is one of the most egregious violations we have seen,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “To allow the assembly and subsequent individual proselytization meetings to occur would be in direct opposition to students’ constitutional rights.”
If any local parents are concerned about the Todd Becker Foundation’s behavior in Burlington, they are encouraged to contact the Freedom From Religion Foundation at (608) 256-8900 or by filling out a legal complaint on our national organization’s website.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 32,000 members and several chapters across the country, including over 800 members in Colorado and chapters in Denver and Colorado Springs. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between church and state, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.
We here at the Freedom From Religion Foundation were barely able to catch our breath this week.
The past weekend, we put on a grand convention in San Francisco — the highest-attended in our organization’s history, with almost 1,000 participants. Among the speakers were Salman Rushdie, Cecile Richards and many other luminaries. FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor and Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel, who were at the convention along with several other staffers, offer a recap on our Facebook Live “Ask An Atheist” feature. You can also listen to highlights from the gathering (excerpts of speeches by U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman and actor John de Lancie, among others) on our radio show this week. In addition, the show’s main interview is with convention presenter Maryam Namazie, the England-based freethinker who is organizing a London conference later this month that Annie Laurie is appearing at.
Those of you in the Madison area can watch Dan and Annie Laurie interview for our TV show another convention attraction, actor and comedian Julia Sweeney, Sunday night at 11 p.m. on Channel 3. On the national version of “Freethought Matters,” available in eight major cities, you can get acquainted with Candace Gorham, author of The Ebony Exodus Project: Why Some Black Women Are Walking Out on
Religion. Don’t worry if you miss the shows; you can always catch them on our YouTube channel.
As soon as we returned home from the convention, we had to deal with the midterm results. We welcomed them on the whole — from the election of a good bunch of freethought candidates to positive referenda results. Andrew talks pithily about the outcomes and their implications for the secular community in our “Newsbite” segment. Separately, we lauded Arizonans for rejecting the expansion of an insidious school voucher expansion program intended to primarily benefit religious schools. This flurry of activity didn’t prevent us from contacting the IRS about a Florida church (and polling site!) that engaged in blatant politicking. The church’s pastor explained that he was asking people not to vote for Democrats because he reasoned that they were “in favor of open borders, saying they oppose Christian values in the bible, which he said explains that God established borders for the Garden of Eden,” reports the Tampa paper. We find this reasoning a tad unconvincing.
With the news cycle being the way it is under the current administration, we had to respond immediately after the election results to President Trump’s appointment of Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, an even more hardline Christian nationalist than his predecessor (if that’s possible). “A man who has a ‘biblical view of justice’ is now running the Department of Justice,” Andrew warned.
Our scrutiny of national affairs didn’t keep us from neglecting the local stuff. We warned the New Yahwk City Council that a grant it recently gave to a Muslim organization is likely going to be utilized for religious purposes. And we called out an Illinois school district for allowing a ministry to use its schools for religious recruitment.From conventions and elections to city councils and school districts, we’re able to tackle the whole range of the spectrum only with your generosity and backing.