Public Schools Promote Student Christian Missionary Trip, Says Atheist Group

| by Michael Allen

The American Humanist Association has filed a lawsuit against the Douglas County School District because two Colorado schools, Highlands Ranch High School and Cougar Run Elementary School, reportedly promoted a Christian missionary trip to Guatemala earlier this year.

A "Giving to Guatemala" flyer was given to all students and parents at the Cougar Run Elementary School. The flyer asked for various donations and stated that it was "sponsored by Cougar Run 6th graders partnering with the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) from Highlands Ranch High School," notes the Friendly Atheist.

A GuFundMe page set up to pay for the trip stated:

The Highlands Ranch High School chapter of FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes), in conjunction with AIM (Adventures in Missions) are sending approximately 15-20 students to Guatemala over Spring Break, March 24-30, 2014. The trip is being funded by donations and local fundraisers. This is a group funding effort that will ensure that all the kids who want to go can.

The purpose of this trip is to serve the people of Guatemala, which has been recovering from 36 years of civil war and several devastating natural disasters that has left the country reeling in poverty. There are many children living in institutions and our group's primary goal is to share the love and hope of Jesus.

“School officials are not permitted to show preferential treatment toward any religious student group, let alone fund raise for mission trips to proselytize Christianity,” Monica Miller, an attorney with the American Humanist Association's Appignani Humanist Legal Center, stated in a letter to the school district in June.

The American Humanist Association claimed that there was also an email sent by a school official to parents asking for donations.

A teacher reportedly wrote about the missionary trip on a blog: “The heart of this journey is to share, celebrate, and honor Christ.”

The school district didn't respond to the letter, so the American Humanist Association filed a lawsuit this week to stop the public schools from partnering with Christian organizations.

The American Humanist Association also claims the school district worked with Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian organization run by the Rev. Franklin Graham, to promote a program called "Operation Christmas Child," in which school children pack care packages for kids overseas. The shoebox care packages include toys and a message to convert to Christianity.

Sources: American Humanist Association, Friendly Atheist, GuFundMe