Alabama school to churches: Donate snacks for our wrestlers and we'll let you preach to them!
The Etowah County Schools offered the illegal trade to support its wrestling program
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A public school district in Alabama needed food and water donations for its wrestling team, so it solicited contributions from local churches. In exchange for the goods, the district promised to give those churches time to proselytize to students.
Dear local church,
We know our churches play a vital role in this community. We are looking for some area churches to connect with our Southside Wrestling team in a very tangible way. During our wrestling season we supply our wrestlers with water and granola bars. We are asking local churches to consider donating 6 cases of water and 4 pks of 24 granola bars to help out our team. Of course we can always use more but this is a good starting point and will help up greatly. Some other donation ideas are sports drinks, uncrustables [sic] and trail mix. Every donation helps! This year we have close to 50 wrestlers on our team from Rainbow Middle School and Southside High School. We are looking forward to a great season.
We would like to give the churches, who are able to donate, a chance to speak into the lives of the students on our team by sharing a short 15 minute devotional. We are very excited about this opportunity again this year. We really enjoyed it last year. We look forward to connecting with you in this way.
If this is something you are interested in please contact one of our coaches to arrange a time to drop off your donation and set up a time to share with the team.
Thank you for considering this opportunity.
Your Southside wrestling team
What the hell.
There’s nothing wrong with public school districts asking community groups for small donations like this to help their students. The problem is the trade. There’s no reason any public school should be offering churches—and you know they’re only asking Christian churches—a chance to win child converts in exchange for a few cases of water. (Some might call that “grooming.”)
Are non-Christian groups allowed to play this game too? Because I’m sure there are Satanists in the area who would love the chance to preach to kids for the price of a bunch of granola bars. (I kid. They aren’t in the business of indoctrination like conservative Christians are.)
Also, they’re excited about doing this “again”?! They’re confessing to their own crime!
“It is well settled that public schools may not show favoritism toward or coerce belief or participation in religion,” FFRF attorney Chris Line writes to Etowah County Schools Superintendent Alan Cosby. “By explicitly inviting churches to proselytize to students, the district displays clear favoritism for religion over nonreligion, and Christianity above other faiths.”
“The understanding between Etowah County Schools and the local churches is an incredibly crass arrangement,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “It cannot be permitted to continue.”
The right-wing media outlet Yellowhammer News covered this story by referring to FFRF as an “out-of-state atheist group,” as if the group’s headquarters has any bearing on the facts of the case. (FFRF said in a press release they were acting on behalf of a “concerned Etowah County Schools community member.”)
The outlet did, however, get some wild quotations from a sitting lawmaker:
State Sen. Greg Reed says he fundamentally disagrees.
“Churches are an essential part of the fabric of our communities across Alabama,” Reed (R-Jasper) said in a statement to Yellowhammer News. “Even more importantly, they are the means by which the Gospel is preached and places where we worship God.
“This week we are celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him goes all the praise and all the glory. That should be our focus, and it should not be interrupted by out-of-state groups trying to push faith out of our lives and the lives of our children.”
In addition to representing Jasper in the State Senate, Reed serves as the President Pro Tem. He added, “We need more children, not less, to hear the good news of God’s saving grace.”
That’s Christian Nationalism for you. Reed lies about FFRF, distorts the situation at hand, then suggests breaking the law to promote Christianity is a good thing.
This isn’t even complicated. If a Muslim group offered to help the school by pitching in food and drinks, there’s no way in hell the school district or Christian lawmakers would be okay with representatives trying to sell Islam to students.
Religion is not a virtue. Christianity isn’t inherently good. Schoolchildren are not better served by taking mythology seriously. More to the point, FFRF isn’t trying to “push faith out of our lives and the lives of our children.” They’re not concerned with what churches preach or these kids’ families believe; their only concern is that the district shouldn’t be in the business of creating converts by giving Christians (and only Christians) the chance to preach to schoolchildren.
If pastors want to brainwash kids on their own time, that’s their business, and it wouldn’t matter what atheists think. It wouldn’t be illegal. What this school district is doing is illegal.
So far, the district has not responded to FFRF.