Lunchtime lunacy: a helping of hogwash with your ham, kids?

BUT for a lawsuit brought by an Indiana couple, a pastor would no doubt still be dishing out Christian codswallop to a captive audience of students at Summit Middle School in Fort Wayne.

John and Linda Buchanan, whose 11-year-old daughter attends the school, sued the Southwest Allen County school district in US District Court in Fort Wayne, claiming the practice violated the First Amendment. The family was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana.

Less than half-an-hour after the suit was filed last Friday, the school announced it will no longer allow a local youth minister to address students during their lunch hour.

The lawsuit claimed that the pastor from a church called the Chapel, which has a very scary sign,  regularly took up “a prominent location” in the lunchroom and spoke to students required to eat there. The minister was allowed to hand out materials and move from table to table, talking with children, the claim states. The suit does not specify whether the materials were religious in nature.

The complaint alleged:

Many of the children recognize him as a religious leader. No other persons who are not associated with the school are allowed to stand in the lunchroom like this. This is coercive and represents an endorsement of religion.

Linda Buchanan, 44, said that she became aware of the practice after her daughter brought home religious anti-abortion literature from a school health fair. She said the school principal told her the minister was not supposed to approach any of the children, but:

If they approach him he can speak to them.

She said she and her husband, who moved to Indiana from Atlanta about two years ago, had never seen anything similar during their years attending public school and felt the practice was wrong. Other parents the couple contacted were also unaware of the practice, she said.

Linda Buchanan added:

We’re not a bunch of heathens. We’re not anti-religion; we’re anti-religion in public school.

ACLU attorney Ken Falk said the school district’s attorney, William “Tuck” Hopkins, phoned him to say the district was ending the practice. Falk said the lawsuit would be dropped once the civil rights group receives formal notice from the district.

Neither the church nor the youth minister involved were named in the lawsuit, but Linda Buchanan said the group was the non-denominational church The Chapel. Patrick Fischl, who is listed as The Chapel’s middle-school minister on the church’s website, did not return a phone call from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Courts have repeatedly restricted interaction between schools and religion since 1962, when the US Supreme Court ruled that school officials cannot require students to begin each school day in organized prayers by saying a state-composed prayer.


21 responses to “Lunchtime lunacy: a helping of hogwash with your ham, kids?”

  1. barriejohn says:

    This was another recent story:–samaritans-purse-shoebox-scheme

    And Samatitan’s purse is run by…Franklin Graham!

  2. barriejohn says:

    That was supposed to be Samaritan’s Purse! Why can’t we edit?

  3. Trevor Blake says:

    This isn’t so different from those schools where atheists are allowed to encourage free thought on campus. Except that never happens, and this did.

  4. Stonyground says:

    I suppose that these people never ask themselves what kind of “truth” it is that needs to continuously recruit believers. Particularly as targetting children is an essential part of this recruiting process. It is interesting that before the ‘New Atheist’ movement started, millions of us came to atheism in the complete absence of any atheist evangelists. We just worked it out for ourselves.

  5. Broga says:

    @Stonyground: You ask a pertinent question. What kind of truth is so unlikely, so devoid of facts to support it, that its believers need to keep insisting it is true? I came to atheism alone amongst my family of the time and my community. I came to it despite being despatched to Sunday School and straight out of that into a long church service every week. And I came to it, or at least saw the first glimmer, because what I was being told could be neither proved nor justified.

    The breach between me and religion began by coming across the question: With the vast suffering in the world how can God be all loving and all powerful? Either he wants to stop the suffering but cannot and so he is not omnipotent. Or he could stop it but doesn’t and in which case he is not all loving.

    The breach soon widened into a chasm. I was 14 or 15 at the time and I began to be what I would describe as enlightened. Some stirred in me and I think it was intellectual curiosity and excitement. I did not need someone to keep telling me that something so obvious, so rational, contradicted what I had been taught.

    The “teaching”, of course, was no more than repeating the usual biblical stories and mantras with nothing opportunity to engage in debate or questioning. The preachers only operate from them to the flock and from on high. Strictly, one way.

  6. tony e says:


    I realised, at the age of 12, that religion was bollocks. However, living in Glasgow, everybody I knew associated themselves with one brand or another of religion.

    It was not until I was 23 that I first met another atheist. By this time I had almost resigned myself to going through life not understanding why nobody else could see what, to me, was obvious.

    Back then, in the early 90’s, I was still a long way from learning about Dawkins and Hitchens, the only books in my local library were pro religion.

    The coming of the internet was, for me, the realisation that there are people who are not prepared to swallow the lies. This site, and the folk who contribute to it, have made a positive stance against religion, that seemed impossible a few short years ago.

  7. Stonyground says:

    Looking back, I feel slightly embarrassed because I was about nineteen before I rejected Christianity. I sometimes wonder if this was because the religious upbringing that I had was a very mild Methodism. A more fundamentalist and extreme form of religion might have been easier to reject. On the other hand, the well honed brainwashing techniques that are used by the RCC, among others, are often so effective that they take a lifetime to shake off. So, on balance, I think that I got off lightly.

  8. Angela_K says:

    A question I often ask myself is: “I’ve worked out that there are no gods and the claims of religion fraudulent, why can’t others?”
    I did get sent to a Sunday school even though my parents were not religious, as my late Mum later admitted, mainly so she and my Dad could have a romp in bed. Most of the time my brother and I walked past the church to the park and played. On the few occasions we actually went to the Sunday school, my brother and I would come home and tell of stuff we had learned from the bible including one of Adam’s ribs being used to make Eve, the implication being all men had one less rib. My Mum, being a nurse, told us this was nonsense and showed us a picture of a male and female skeleton in one of her medical books. Thus at the age of 12, my scepticism started.

  9. Chuck Longstreth says:

    @Stonyground – Don’t feel bad that it took you 19 yrs to figure things out.
    To be really embarrassed try this: I didn’t get this atheism put together until I was 70 yrs – I am now 80 and enjoying this freedom from cognitive dissociation. I hope to keep enjoying life for a few years yet. LOL
    The Freethinkers are a great bunch!

  10. Brummie says:

    Making my way to compulsory Mass one Sunday in November,aged 8, I was persuaded by an older friend to deviate instead to the Remembrance Ceremony at the local monument to 1st World War dead. I was caned on the hands by my father for this sin.
    Embarrasment topic – I finally rejected catholicism aged 26, soon after persuading my future wife to convert, and accompanying her to indoctrination sessions by the local priest. She asked quite logical questions like “why should I respect the clergy above others?) much to my intense embarrasment at the time. The RC view on contraception finally made the worm turn…

  11. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    I just never really got religion, despite being sent to the local sally anne’s sunday school (probably for the same reason as Angela_K…..LOL).

    As for a school letting a preacher in, haven’t they learned yet that letting preachers near children is dangerous, there are far too many kiddy fiddling preachers on the loose.

  12. remigius says:

    ‘…there are far too many kiddy fiddling preachers on the loose.’

    Too right. According to the previous post only 5% of the bastards have been caught.

  13. JohnMWhite says:

    Hopefully their daughter won’t be cast out of the school as an evil little thing and lambasted with death threats from the caring Christian community…

  14. Robster says:

    Their numbers are diminishing rapidly, their urge to sell the nonsense remains strong, so they’ve got to get the kids before they’re old enough to realise it’s a fraud. The sooner religion is out of the schools the better, but it’s going to be difficult as the deluded know there’s but one market for their nonsense if it’s going to continue. That is the kids and the schools. The only reason the catliks do education is to spread their dogma to an audience unprepared to consider it rationally, not for the good of society.

  15. Sabbag says:

    Robster, the danger (in the UK at least) is that the free school / academy system welcomes organisations with the money and the motivation to become involved with the educational system. If anything it feels like religion is having an increasing rather than decreasing role in education, which is a rather depressing situation as a parent.

  16. barriejohn says:

    Sabbag: David Cameron wants more “charities” involved in the care and resettlement of offenders, and in the provision of care for the ill, the elderly, the disabled, and so on, and we all know which suspects are just queuing up to get involved and get their hands on government money in those areas, don’t we?

  17. Broga says:

    @Chuck: Glad to hear from you. It’s never too late. Truly. Once free of superstition you can have fun including enjoying the company here.

    @Brummie: My brother, who died six years ago, was an unthinking man but in his youth a brilliant sportsman – represented his county – and with charisma. He wanted to marry a Roman Catholic who was a very attractive and warm and loving woman. Her father was a “strong” Catholic and the priest was a frequent visitor. My brother was told – ordered really – that he must become a catholic if they were to marry. He refused. He was therefore told any children must brought up as catholics. He refused. He was told he and his future wife must always enter and leave by the “back door” of the chapel. Never the front. (I don’t know what that was about). They split up. He bitterly regretted the split, as I think did the woman, ever afterwards.

    Unfortuneatly, unlike myself, he was unequipped to argue his case either with the girl’s father or the priest. He and I were close and I know he felt an unresolved longing and gap in his life as long as he lived. Religion poisons everything.

  18. Matt Westwood says:

    “… he and his future wife must always enter and leave by the “back door” of the chapel.” Might that have been a suggested method of ensuring that there were no offspring to argue over the religion of?

  19. Broga says:

    @Matt Westwood: Stop, please stop, I’ve spilled my coffee laughing.