Police are planning to be at a mother-led "Jesus Lunch" April 19 at a public park in Middleton, Wisconsin, to keep the peace.
The lunches have generated controversy because the Christian moms have been inviting students from the Middleton High School to join them in the park, which the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District leases from the city and sets the rules for during school days/hours, WKOW noted.
The school believes the lunches cross the line because of Christian proselytizing of the kids, but the mothers say it's all part of their religious freedom.
Middleton Police Chief Charles Foulke released a statement that was posted on the police department's Facebook page April 15:
I am concerned that groups on both sides of this issue plan on also being present on Tuesdays for “Jesus Lunch.” That is fine and perfectly legal, but let us keep it peaceful. Middleton Police Officers will be nearby, not to interfere in any way with anyone’s right of assembly or speech, but we will intervene if things get contentious.
Please do not assume that our presence in any way indicates a preference for any side in this issue other than to preserve the peace and allow people to exercise their 1st Amendment rights.
Let’s also remember that there is a High School next door and try not to interfere with the learning environment. I hope it is not the students who teach the adults how to act.
District superintendent Don Johnson told The Christian Post April 14: "[The lunch] needs to follow our district policies, and the parents sponsoring the lunch are not following our policies."
"The parents sponsoring the lunch met with the school principal once, and refused to look at alternatives," Johnson added. "We have both in writing and verbally asked to meet with [them], their response has been 'talk to our attorney.' Again, we have several alternatives for students and parents to engage in religious discussions, conversations, and events within our school and district policies."
In response, the Christian mothers told the news site that the school district "has not yet approached us to discuss what we do or how the Jesus Lunch began. We have invited them to attend, but as of date they have declined."
"The question here is not us being in opposition to the school, but rather that we have a right to be in Fireman's Park. Although the school district contends that it is school grounds because they have a lease, the public still has a right to use the park during school hours," the parents added.
However, the school has not denied that the pubic can use the park, but does oppose the Christian events that are led by the moms, has issues with the food safety of the lunches and says that adult visitors on its campus need to register at the school office (the park is next to the campus).