Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Students' Jesus Lunch in Wisc. Public Park Banned

Today, police and atheists will descend upon Fireman's Park in Middleton, Wisconsin where the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District will confront local parents providing their weekly "Jesus Lunch" for Middleton High School students during their open campus free period.  Although the nearby park is public property, the school claims jurisdiction during school hours and will forbid Christian interaction with students.
"We believe we can be there because it is a public park, and in any public place you have the First Amendment right, which is to have freedom of speech."
-- Melissa Helbach, parent, "Jesus Lunch" organizer since 2014

"The first five minutes or so the moms discuss things about faith and give you something to think about for the day. I see them giving students love, guidance and support and it brings light into students lives who may need to hear positive messages."
-- Parker Sigmon, MHS junior
For background, click headlines below to read previous articles:

Ban Christians From Missouri Schools, Atheists Say

Christmas, Easter Jettisoned from Omaha Schools

Florida Bans Prayer at Christian Football Game

Bible Verse Gets Georgia Athlete Disqualified

California School Bans Books by Christian Authors

Satanic, Atheist Books Provided in Colorado Schools

Also read Deny God, or Fail, Texas Teacher Tells Students

-- From "Protesters expected at 'Jesus Lunch'" posted at WKOW-TV27 (Madison, WI) 4/19/16

The Freedom From Religion Foundation [FFRF] says some of its members will be there to support students who might be demonstrating.

Some parents in the district have been serving a meal to students in Fireman's Park, and then sharing a lesson in Christianity.

The Middleton Police Department says it will have officers near the park during the lunch, so they can intervene if anything gets contentious.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Chief: Officers to be on site for next 'Jesus Lunch' to keep peace" by Jessica Arp, WISC-TV3 (Madison, WI) 4/15/16

[Critics] say the lunch makes students "uncomfortable" and that it shouldn't be happening on what is considered school property.

Comments on that petition say the issue comes down to the constitutional rights of freedom of religion, and that students enjoy having a discussion about Christianity over their lunch hour.

The school district and city officials said they have proposed moving the lunches to nearby Parisi Park, which is a short walk from the school, but the park facilities are smaller than what the group has now.

"Unless something unforeseen happens, the Jesus Lunch is going to happen this Tuesday and will probably continue until the end of the school year," Middleton police Chief Charles Foulke said in a release on Friday.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Middleton-Cross Plains Superintendent urges understanding over 'Jesus Lunch' controversy" by Ogechi Emechebe, The Capital Times 4/16/16

Growing controversy surrounding the “Jesus Lunch” at Middleton High School has prompted an email from Superintendent Don Johnson asking families, students and community members to “remain calm and understanding.”

The school district has asked the parents several times to stop their weekly gatherings, which have attracted as many as 400 students, citing the lunches violate school policy. Fireman’s Park is owned by the city so it’s considered a public space, but the district has a 16 year agreement with the city to lease the property and its rules apply there during the school day.

Parents and students opposing the lunches claim not only does it violate school policy, but see it as adults forcing their faith and religion on students. Peter Opitz, a student at Middleton High School, started a petition called “Tell Jesus Lunch to Follow School Regulations.” As of Friday afternoon, 462 people had signed the petition.

A counter petition of those in support of the lunch was also created, called “Allow Jesus Lunch to continue at Fireman’s Park.” 1,426 supporters had signed the petition as of Friday afternoon, a day after organizers appeared on a Madison conservative talk radio show.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Police to Keep Peace at Controversial 'Jesus Lunch' at Wisconsin High School" by Michael Gryboski, Christian Post Reporter 4/18/16

Chief Charles Foulke of the Middleton Police Department released a statement last Friday explaining that officers were going to be present at this week's luncheon.

Officials from the school district and Middleton High recently expressed concerns about the Jesus Lunch gathering, stating in a letter to parents that the events violated certain policies.

"The policies in question include food handling, visitors to campus, and expectations around student organized events. We are in no way interested in opposing religious practice in otherwise legal circumstances," read the letter.

"If students are interested in organizing student led activities, MHS staff are happy to work with them and will convey the district and school policies that govern activities. This, however, appears to be an event initiated by adults without approval by the school."

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "School administrators try to physically block parents from hosting ‘Jesus Lunch’" by Steve Gunn, EAGnews.org 4/15/16

School officials set up cones to block parents from using the parking lot at Fireman’s Park, near Middleton High School, on Tuesday, according to Phil Stamman, an attorney who is representing the mothers involved with the Jesus Lunch program.

The parents ignored school officials’ orders to turn away, according to Stamman. They parked along the street, walked into the park and set up the food for the lunch, anyway, he said.

“They coned up the parking lot, waited there and confronted my clients and told them to leave,” Stamman said. “(The parents) responded how I recommended. They walked right past them. The superintendent repeatedly tried to confront them. He was the first one. But they just moved on.”

“I’ve been talking to a lawyer for the city and my clients and the Alliance Defending Freedom,” [Stamman] said. “We’re reviewing our options. We have not decided how to move forward yet.”

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

Also read Supreme Court Justice Scalia Said Government Should Favor God of the Bible