WINTERSVILLE, Ohio — One of the nation’s most conspicuous atheist activist groups is seeking to stop an Ohio pastor from holding a voluntary lunchtime Bible study for students at a local middle school.
The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) recently sent a letter to the superintendent of the Indian Creek School District to assert that it is unconstitutional for the district to allow Bobbyjon Bauman of the Valley Youth Network to offer the study during school hours at Indian Creek Middle School.
The group further called the pastor’s gospel presentations “predatory conduct.”
“It is unconstitutional for the district to offer religious leaders access to befriend and proselytize students during the school day on school property,” FFRF wrote. “This predatory conduct is inappropriate and should raise many red flags. The district cannot allow its schools to be used as recruiting grounds for churches during the school day.”
“When a school allows Church representatives to recruit students for the Church, it has unconstitutionally entangled itself with a religious message—in this case, a Christian message. This practice alienates those non-Christian students, teachers and members of the public whose religious beliefs are inconsistent with the message being endorsed by the school,” it asserted.
According to FFRF, the organization had been alerted by a local resident about Bauman’s Bible study, and also reviewed his social media posts, which included a notation on Feb. 23 that 165 students decided to attend that day.
“I shared the gospel with them using Romans 6:23 as the touchstone verse. None of the kids in any of the four Bible study groups even knew what the word ‘gospel’ meant, so I was able to share with them the significance of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ,” Bauman wrote.
“The kids were very responsive to the message and we had 30 of them request Bibles because they didn’t own one, so next week, we will be bringing them Bibles,” he outlined, explaining student interest.
It is not known if the Indian Creek School District plans to respond.
As previously reported, in 1791—just four years after the signing of the U.S. Constitution—Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and vice-president of the Bible Society of Philadelphia, said in expressing his disagreement with deists who were opposed to using the Bible in schools:
“In contemplating the political institutions of the United States, I lament, that we waste so much time and money in punishing crimes, and take so little pains to prevent them. We profess to be republicans, and yet we neglect the only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government, that is, the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by means of the Bible, for this divine book, above all others, favors that equality among mankind, that respect for just laws, and all those sober and frugal virtues, which constitute the soul of republicanism.”
The first textbook used in the American colonies even before the nation’s founding, “The New England Primer,” was largely focused on the Scriptures, and was stated to be popular in public and private schools alike until approximately the early 1900’s. It used mostly the King James Bible as reference, and spoke much about sin, salvation and proper behavior.
“Save me, O God, from evil all this day long, and let me love and serve Thee forever, for the sake of Jesus Christ, Thy Son,” it read.
Noah Webster’s famous “Blue Back Speller” also referenced Christianity, including God-centered statements in reading lessons such as “The preacher is to preach the gospel,” “Blasphemy is contemptuous treatment of God,” and “We do not like to see our own sins.” Webster, a schoolmaster, is known as the “father of American education” and strongly advocated teaching children the Scriptures. Many of the Founders’ children are stated to have learned to read from the primer.
The Church-State separation group also contended that the fact that the Bible study is voluntary—that it is only attended by students who are interested—does not alleviate concerns.
“Please note that it makes no difference that students are not required to attend these preaching sessions. Voluntariness does not excuse a constitutional violation,” FFRF wrote. “The district must immediately discontinue allowing Mr. Bauman, or any other preachers, access to students during the school day.”