Group Protests 'Jesus Lunches' Held For Students


A group that advocates for the separation of church and state is helping to organize a protest against a group of parents holding a weekly "Jesus Lunch" outside a public Wisconsin high school.

For several years, a group of parents in Middleton, Wisconsin, has organized a weekly lunch in Fireman's Memorial Park, next to Middleton High School, where they distribute Bibles and later proselytize to students after school. The so-called "Jesus Lunches" are not sanctioned by the Middleton-Cross Plains School District, and violate a city agreement that allows the school district to determine how the park should be used.

Freedom From Religion Foundation is a secular organization that seeks to defend the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, which guarantees that the government will remain uninvolved with matters of religion. The FFRF will protest at one of the lunches on April 19, according to a statement released by the group.

"FFRF strongly supports -- and actively fights for -- the rights of free speech and free assembly as embodied in the First Amendment," wrote Ryan Jayne, a legal fellow for FFRF, in a letter to the school district's superintendent, Don Johnson.

"However, these basic rights have reasonable limits when applied to school campuses. The district is well within its right to regulate large groups targeting district students, especially when those groups violate district rules and regulations," Jayne added.

The FFRF was informed about the lunches by a student who led a plan to organize a protest. The group decided to join the protesting students and plans to offer desserts including cupcakes, cookies and brownies to students, as well as literature on violations of the separation of church and state and publications entitled "What's Wrong with the Ten Commandments" and "Why Women Need Freedom From Religion."

In a statement, the parents organizing the weekly event argued they are legally allowed to have lunch in the park and that students who receive the free food are not required to participate in the religious aspects of the lunches, reports the Wisconsin State Journal.

"We don't think any adults, whether missionaries or atheists or those purveying commercial enterprises, should be allowed to move in opportunistically like this upon what is essentially a captive audience of students," FFRF Co-President Anne Laurie Gaylor said in a statement on the protest.

Middleton Police Chief Charles Foulke has said the lunches will likely continue until the end of the school year, but with police present to supervise.

Source: Freedom From Religion Foundation, Wisconsin State Journal / Photo credit: slgckgc/Flickr

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