A secular group sent a letter to the Robbinsdale school district in Minnesota demanding it stop taking students to a church to pack meals for needy families in Haiti.
The American Humanist Association says a parent complained last year after the School of Engineering and Arts took students to Calvary Lutheran Church in Golden Valley, where they participated in a world hunger effort run by Feed My Starving Children.
The group says the field trip is unconstitutional. The same parent allegedly complained to school administrators about the trip as well.
“School administrators refused a previous request from the family to stop the practice after their complaint was made last year,” AHA said in a statement.
Legal representation for AHA, in a letter to school officials dated Feb. 3, said the field trip is “such an obvious violation that a parental complaint should not be necessary.”
“Very importantly, we fully understand that at least one purpose of this field trip was to have the children participate in charity work intended to assist poverty-stricken people,” the letter said. “Such good intentions, however, can be pursued in innumerable other ways that do not involve immersing the unsuspecting children into a theologically-charged environment.”
District spokeswoman Latisha Gray said school officials didn’t feel the field trip violated the law.
"There was absolutely no proselytizing," Gray told the Star Tribune.
“For public school administrators to send students to a religious environment to work on a religious mission with a religious organization is unconstitutional,” Monica Miller, an attorney for the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, said in a statement. “This is a clear violation of the separation of church and state.”
The school district has two weeks to reply to the AHA letter.