In Hudsonville, Michigan, an RV belonging to a Bible study ministry has been evicted from school grounds after complaints from concerned parents.
Bible Club Ministries International-Western Michigan, which has provided Bible instruction for Hudsonville students for years, has been told by school administrators a new policy no longer permits the local Bible club from ministering to elementary students during lunch and recess.
The Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists, the group responsible for the removal of religious symbols on public properties in Ottawa County, now says Hudsonville Public Schools broke the law when it allowed Bible Club Ministries International access to students during school hours on school property.
MACRA’s Facebook page urges “parents or students to report any organized religious activity that is taking place on public school property while school is in session, including during recess and lunch periods. Such activity is always illegal, unless it is 100% student initiated, student-led, and non-disruptive to classroom instruction. No teacher, coach, or staff involvement is allowed.”
Mitch Kahle, an outspoken atheist and the force behind MACRS, has been called a “provocateur who relishes nothing more than a good debate.” He moved to the area a year ago and was instrumental in removing a religious sign from a county park.
According to an article in Detroit News, “[Kahle] has blamed religion for most of the world’s problems, equated it with racism and child abuse, and compared it unfavorably with astrology, palm reading and alien abduction claims.”
“Show me an evangelical Christian organization and I’ll show you a fraud,” he wrote on a science education group website in 2010. “They are all in it for the money, and power over helpless and desperate people.”
In 2011, Kahle won the “Freethinker of the Year” award from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
A concerned parent brought the Bible Club Ministries International RV in the elementary school parking lot to the attention of MACRA a couple of weeks ago. Kahle called the presence of the vehicle a “violation of the rights of all taxpayers and all private citizens.”
MACRA contends it took photos of the motor home on South Elementary property, as well as a flyer inside the school, during school hours, and called to confront school officials. Michigan state law allows public school students to take part in religious instruction during school hours, but only if it happens somewhere other than school property.
WoodTV reports, “In an email to 24 Hour News 8, the district’s attorney said the Hudsonville students were previously picked up in the motor home during their recess or lunch period with parent permission, after which it would park off school property, lessons would be given, and then the motor home brought students back to school. Recently, the motor home simply remained parked in the school lot during the lessons.”
The attorney wrote in part, “When this was brought to the attention of the District’s Central Office Administration, the District agreed that BCM should not be allowed to provide religious instruction during the school day while parked in the District’s lot.”
“It’s been more than 70 years since the Supreme Court required public schools to separate themselves from religion,” Kahle told WZZM 13 News. “In no case is a Bible class allowed on public school property while school is in session; this means during recess, this means during lunch hour.”
“Most folks in Hudsonville, however, are likely more offended by MACRA’s demands than by the allegedly illegal Bible camper,” wrote Eagle News. “Hudsonville is located in the deeply religious and conservative Ottawa County, which is populated heavily with God-fearing Dutch conservatives.”
In 2010, The Daily Caller ranked Ottawa the 51st most conservative county in America.
School officials have evicted the camper from school property during regular school hours, but welcome it back after hours. They also removed the flyers from inside schools.
Kahle told WZZM 13 News he hopes Hudsonville’s issue will convince other schools to reconsider similar programs.
“We’re hoping this situation will be used by other schools to review their programs to make sure that if there is religious instruction on school property that it’s being done before school or after school,” he said.