Religion

Freedom From Religion Foundation Objects To Evangelist Speaker Bob Lenz At Public School

| by Corinne Gaston

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is questioning Iron Mountain Public Schools in Iron Mountain, Michigan, after the school district allowed religious speaker Bob Lenz to give a presentation to a school assembly on March 2.

The FFRF sent a letter of complaint to Supt. Tom Jayne on March 30. The letter alleged that the school district had violated the Constitution, because Lenz had used the assembly to invite students to a religious event at a church.

“While Lenz's presentation may have been secular, we understand he recruited students to come to an event at Cornerstone Community Church later that evening,” wrote staff attorney Rebecca S. Market in the letter. “We are informed he handed out fliers to students advertising free pizza and a prize drawing and telling the students to bring a friend.”

Lenz is a nationally-known youth communicator and part of the company Life Promotions, which seeks to instill hope in youth below 18 through providing “value-based public school assembly programs” and promoting “life in Christ” and “the Gospel through faith-based events and festivals.”

Lenz had visited the school district before and then returned in March after Iron Mountain High School and Central Middle School student councils raised the money to bring him back. 

“It is inappropriate to take away instructional time from students to expose them to a proselytizing speaker, regardless of any secular message the group claims to be promoting,” continued Market in the letter. “It is well settled that public schools may not advance or promote religion.”

In response to the letter, Jayne stated that he had attended the presentation and that "nothing was mentioned about religion." Jayne admitted that Lenz had passed out flyers after the presentation, but the only religious aspect of them was that the advertised event was being held at a church.

The FFRF sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to Jayne, requesting every email and correspondence between the school district and Lenz.

Jayne affirmed that Lenz’s presentation hadn’t contained any religious connotations.

"I am confident we followed the school district policies and protocol,” said Jayne. “If passing out the flyers was wrong, we are looking into that. And if any violation occurred because of this, we will make sure moving forward to correct it.”

Sources: Iron Mountain Daily News, Freedom From Religion Foundation

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