In Addition To Teacher's Lawsuit, Family Considers Suing School For Proselytizing

| by Alexander Rubinstein
Florence High School.Florence High School.

A Jewish teacher’s lawsuit accuses Florence High School in Florence, Colorado, of operating “largely to promote the evangelical Christian ideals” of The Cowboy Church at Crossroads. At the same time, a family has been considering a similar lawsuit against the school district, according to The Freedom From Religion Foundation.

The FFRF’s headquarters have been corresponding with officials from the school district since 2013, according to Andrew Seidel, an attorney with the nonprofit. He said, “We've been going back and forth with them for two years about the same issues,” referring to the lawsuit filed by Robert Basevitz, a former teacher at Florence High School, according to The Denver Channel.

The Cowboy Church at Crossroads holds daily prayers by the school's flagpole before classes start, as well as Bible study and pizza parties during lunch hour.

Parents of a student attending the school say their child had been proselytized to at school events. Seidel said that the family does not want to be identified because they have not decided whether to sue and they fear retribution.

"It can be very scary and dangerous," Seidel said. "The community backlash can be pretty severe, particularly in a small town."

“We’ve received constant reports of systemic First Amendment problems," Seidel said. "It's very clear The Cowboy Church's relationship with the school crosses ethical and constitutional boundaries. We've gotten reports of Bible distribution, allowing the church to proselytize at lunch and the school encouraging and supporting prayer."

In a letter sent to District Superintendent Rhonda Vendetti, FFRF said the child felt “pressure to attend,” and “excluded and patronized.”

Randy Pfaff, a pastor at Cowboy Church at Crossroads, leads lunch gatherings for a religious student group he founded, called Fellowship of Christian Huskies.

Seidel said, “The school cannot grant outside adults access to other people's children to proselytize those children,” The Gazette reports.

In response to the letter, Vendetti denied any problems in 2013 but said that the district would change its policies so Pfaff could not facilitate or attend meetings.

Seidel concluded that his organization had hit a dead end trying to address the issues and was considering filing a lawsuit when Basevitz’s lawsuit was filed.

"I reached out to his attorney, and we're going to provide him any support that we can," Seidel said.

Sources: The Denver Channel, The Gazette

Photo Source: Florence High School