Conway Public Schools in Arkansas has suspended, at least temporarily, a practice allowing local ministers to come into the school cafeteria during lunch and talk to students. The school says they’re suspending the practice until they can do a thorough legal review of the matter:
Local youth ministers and pastors can no longer visit students at lunchtime in Conway schools after an organization sent a letter in October complaining about the visits, school officials said Thursday.
About 16 representatives from area churches and religious organizations met in a closed-door meeting between them and superintendent Greg Murry on Thursday morning.
“A lot of things were circulating last night on Twitter and Facebook, and people were talking about ministers being banned from school,” said Conway K-Life board president Jeff Standridge. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there right now. (But) there is a suspension of these activities until they could complete the review.”
This is hardly a close call. That review should take about five minutes — it’s illegal, period. But they say it may take months:
Standridge said his group was informed by letter several weeks ago that the lunchtime visits are suspended until the district reviewed its policy on the matter.
Murry said the school wants to make sure the practice is legal. The move to disallow visits from ministers at lunchtime is temporary, but the time to study the issue could take months, he said.
“We certainly want the community to know that we are wanting to make sure that whatever activities that are allowed at the school are legal for us to do and that’s really what all this is about,” Murry said. “We’re not trying to kick anybody out of the school, or an organization out of the school. Whatever we do, we have to make sure we are on the correct side of the law.”
The church behind this, of course, says that they don’t proselytize at all:
Wilkins said Conway K-Life has a long history of visiting Conway students at lunchtime. He said K-Life ministers will talk to other students about the ministry when asked, but said “The purpose is to maintain relationships with our students invested in our ministry and to go and be a positive influence during the school day.”
“To be clear, the purpose of these visits is not to recruit students to K-Life,” Standridge added. “My understanding (of) the purpose is to visit existing kids in the programs. The purpose is not to recruit kids into the programs.”
Conway school district may be within its legal boundaries of separation of church and state, said board member Bill Clements.
“They are just supporting kids who go to their church,” Clements said. “They are not trying to recruit other kids.”
Right. And if you believe that, I’ve got some oceanfront property in Arkansas to sell you.