After receiving a complaint from a local church-state watchdog group, a Michigan school district was intimidated into cancelling a voluntary lunch hour Bible class held by a fifth-grade teacher.
Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists (MACRA) Spokesman Mitch Kahle waged a complaint with Hudsonville Public Schools (HPS) that a fifth-grade teacher at Alward Elementary School was holding a voluntary Bible class during lunchtime for students to attend. Soon afterward, HPS made the announcement that the class was discontinued.
Secularists intimidating school officials
The assistant superintendent of human resources for Hudson Public Schools, Scott B. Smith, maintained that the district took action against the teacher after examining to situation.
“District administration verified the details of Mr. Kahle’s report, and the teacher – who thought the Bible discussion was appropriate because it was during lunch and voluntary – immediately put an end to these lunch meetings,” Smith announced via email to The Christian Post (CP) Thursday. “We will continue to communicate and educate staff at all levels on the District’s policies related to religion in schools.”
Kahle insisted that the district’s decision against the Bible class was rooted in public school protocol.
“Every public-school teacher, principal and superintendent should know that they are prohibited from engaging in any activity with students that involves religious beliefs, rituals or doctrines,” Kahle asserted, according to Mlive.com.
Smith and HPS Superintendent Nick Ceglarek discussed the issue with fifth-grade teacher Christopher Karel on the day of Kahle’s complaint and confirmed the story, which resulted in the two school officials’ immediate cancellation of the lunchtime Bible talks.
“We want to make sure our actions are fully aligned with the law,” Smith told Mlive.com. “The teacher thought it was okay because it was occurring during a non-instructional time.”
The Bible talks were extremely popular with students.
“Smith said their understanding w[as] that the talks only occurred twice, after students approached Karel about holding the meetings during lunch in his classroom,” Mlive.com’s Monica Scott recounted. “He said they were informed between 35 and 45 students attended one or both of the lunches in total.”
But the civil rights groups alleged that a couple parents complained about the strictly voluntary meetings.
“Kahle said his group was approached separately by two parents about teacher-led Bible studies that had been ongoing this semester every Friday at lunch – Thursday, if school was out on Fridays,” Scott added. “He said parents informed MACRA [that] Karel would read Bible verses, tell a story or show a video and lead students in prayer. He said their group doesn’t buy reports that the principal and some teachers weren’t aware of what was occurring at lunch.”
Caving in twice
HPS officials also backed down to Kahle’s “civil rights” group less than two years ago, when Bible studies were led by adults with Bible Club Ministries International of Western Michigan (BCMI) in an RV parked on school grounds.
“State law prohibits ministry meetings on-campus during the school day,” Mlive.com reported back in 2015. “[Scott Smith] said the district discontinued the practice and contacted Bible Club Ministries International-Western Michigan – which has provided the instruction for years – to let them know of the policy change.”
However, BCMI was not kicked off campus and Bible studies near the campus continued to be held for interested students after school hours.
“The district did not evict the Bible group, and Smith said the district is working with leaders there to find another gathering time,” the 2015 reported continued. “After-school Bible clubs continue to meet at Forest Grove, Jamestown and Georgetown elementaries.”
Kahle claimed that the state rules prohibited the solicitation of students to attend religious instruction classes on public school property.
“The staff of the public school system shall neither encourage nor discourage participation in any religious program,” Kahle wrote at the time, alleging that the South elementary school building violated the rules by permitting the Christian group to solicit, distribute permission slips and hand out fliers promoting the Bible club.
After the latest incident, Karel, who has been employed with the school district for nearly a quarter century, did not receive discipline for holding the voluntary Bible classes.
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