Evangelicals' Stealth Mission to Sneak Jesus into Our Public Schools
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In addition, the Hitchcock County (Neb.) News ran a photo of a foundation staffer giving a presentation while standing in front of a video screen covered with Bible verses.
The Becker Foundation’s Web site also states that after its assemblies, students are offered an opportunity to meet with staff members and that these conversations often result in “sharing with the student the gospel of Jesus Christ and pointing them to a new life found in Christ.”
Americans United pointed out that the foundation’s Web site strongly suggests that these meetings are offered after presentations that take place during the school day.
AU’s dust-up with the Becker Foundation is not unique. Speakers from a range of organizations launch into evangelistic sermons in school. Others are more subtle, inviting students to what is described as a party that evening.
Young people may be lured with the promise of free food, games and even drawings for prizes. They may get those things – after they’ve sat through a fundamentalist sermon.
Sometimes dubbed “pizza evangelists” because of their predilection for offering free snacks to students, representatives from these ministries roam the nation, hitting public schools in one community and quickly moving on to the next.
Many of these organizations are adept at crafting messages that appeal to young people through the use of props, costumes and stunts.
One ministry, Commandos! USA based in Katy, Texas, purports to offer a program on the dangers of substance abuse led by performers dressed in quasi-military garb. But the emphasis is really on preaching. The group’s Web site brags that it seeks to “impart effectively the true meaning of God’s word” and quotes a passage from the Book of Psalms.
AU tangled with the Commandos! in February of 2008, advising a public school in Laredo to either cancel the presentation or make sure it remained free of religious content and pitches for after-school religious events. Officials chose to cancel the presentation.
Three other ministries – the Power Team, the Strength Team and Team Impact – use athletes who perform feats of strength such as ripping phone books in half and bending steel bars while lecturing on drug awareness and other topics.
The Power Team boasts that it practices “Family-Focused Evangelism” and says, “We bring the message of Christ in an energizing way to your community…. [W]e create a revival meeting atmosphere resulting in an awe-inspiring response. Hundreds, even thousands, give their lives to Christ during a typical crusade.”
Likewise, the Strength Team boasts that it offers “evangelism with a purpose” while Team Impact promises pastors, “With a Team Impact event, your church has the ability to impact your schools with this powerful message.”
Evangelist Rick Gage, based in Duluth, Ga., runs Go Tell Ministries, which purports to offer an anti-drug message in public schools. A former assistant football coach at Liberty University, Gage boasts on his Web site that he has spoken to more than two million public school students.
Gage is clear about his goals. His site reads, “He has led thousands of people – young and old, rich and poor of all ethnic backgrounds – to make personal decisions to live for Christ.”
There’s even a Minnesota-based ministry that uses hard rock music to reach teens. Called You Can Run But You Cannot Hide, the group frequently sends its band Junkyard Prophet into public schools.
One of its leaders recently said, “We are speaking to kids in our schools about the Constitution, suicide prevention and our own testimony of how Christ turned our lives around…so we can get the light into kids’ hands in public schools.”