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Evangelicals' Stealth Mission to Sneak Jesus into Our Public Schools

Fundamentalist evangelists are hiding their religious agenda to sneak into public schools and preach to a captive audience of students.

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You Can Run But You Cannot Hide, based in Annandale, Minn., has ties to the Republican Party in that state. U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) has twice helped the group raise money. In addition, ministry members attended the Minnesota GOP convention in April, and the Minnesota Independent reported that the band’s front man, Bradlee Dean, visited gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer in his home.

Some moderates in the Minnesota GOP are alarmed. As the Independent reported, Dean holds extreme views. In May, he even seemed to praise hard-line Muslim nations for executing gays.

“Muslims are calling for the executions of homosexuals in America,” Dean said on a ministry radio show May 15. “This just shows you they themselves are upholding the laws that are even in the Bible of the Judeo-Christian God, but they seem to be more moral than even the American Christians do, because these people are livid about enforcing their laws. They know homosexuality is an abomination.”

While most of the school evangelists aren’t this extreme, they don’t exactly try to hide what they’re up to. Their Web sites are rife with fundamentalist Christian testimony and appeals to sympathetic donors to help them proselytize. On a form filed with the Internal Revenue Service, the Dallas-based Power Team lists it purpose in just one word: evangelism.

The Becker Foundation’s Web site states it upfront: “Our desire is to impact students for eternity, not just for a few Friday nights,” it reads. “Thus, our sole purpose is to draw young people into a life changing relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Elsewhere on the site, Keith Becker writes, “As we travel around this state, our desire is that our efforts would result in this one thing: that young and old alike would turn their lives over, fully over, to Jesus Christ.”

The group also has some friends in high places. In February, it hosted a banquet in Kearney featuring Gigi Graham, daughter of famous evangelist Billy Graham, as its special guest speaker.

Despite this clear evangelistic intent, the foundation claims to have done presentations in nearly 150 Nebraska schools, all but a handful of them public schools. The group says its goal is to reach every school in the state.

Amazingly, some of these groups are able to persuade school officials to pay them. The Power Team, for example, instructs school officials to contact them “for pricing for your area.” A letter released by the Becker Foundation reads, “We do not charge the high school an actual fee; rather, they determine the expenses they are able to pay. We then raise the remaining expenses unpaid by the school. We rely on individuals and local churches to fund the message in their community.”

In Sharon Springs, a rural Kansas hamlet of about 800 near the Colorado border, the Becker Foundation’s foray has had lasting effects on Jenkins. The minister had been at odds with a faction of his congregation aligned with the Religious Right prior to the foundation’s appearance in town. His refusal to support the crusade pushed things to the breaking point, and they engineered his ouster.

Jenkins, 50, is currently living in Kansas City and plans to join the United Church of Christ. He hopes to find work serving as pastor of a UCC congregation. His run-in with the Todd Becker Foundation, Jenkins said, has been a learning experience for him – and he hopes it will be for the town as well.

“If that community had a Muslim group come in and wanted to do that type of presentation, they would have been up in arms,” observed Jenkins. “As long as it’s what some hold to strongly, they think it’s OK in the schools.

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