DENVER — A school district in Colorado has come to an agreement in a lawsuit filed by a teacher who accused officials of “operat[ing] largely to promote the evangelical Christian ideals” of a local church.
As previously reported, Robert Basevitz, who identifies as Jewish, said that the Christian activities held at Florence High School made him feel excluded since he belongs to a different religion.
According to reports, for the past three years, “The Cowboy Church at Crossroads” has rented the cafeteria for Sunday services, held prayer every morning before school and hosted a voluntary Bible study and weekly “Jesus pizza” during the lunch period, among other events. It also distributed flyers and Bibles to students and erected a banner outside advertising its Sunday services.
When Basevitz complained to officials about the presence of the church at the school, he was allegedly transferred to another teaching job within the district, at which point he decided to file a lawsuit about the matter.
“Government and public schools need to remain neutral on questions of religion so that you and I are not forced to [be exposed to] someone else’s personal religious beliefs,” attorney Paul Mason told CBS Denver earlier this year. “The church has been involved in the school for at least three years. The pastor states they haven’t missed a day of prayer at the school in the past three years.”
But Randy Pfaff, pastor of the Cowboy Church of Crossroads, told reporters that the events are all voluntary and that no one—including staff members—are required to participate. He said that he doesn’t believe that the Founding Fathers had the intention to keep religion of school.
“I don’t believe the Constitution was meant to keep God out of the schools. That’s absolutely absurd,” Pfaff told the Denver Post. “This nation was founded on Christianity.”
On Tuesday, the two sides reached a settlement in the matter, thus ending the suit. Under the agreement, Cowboy Church will no longer hold worship services at Florence High School, and its facilities will not be used “by a group that impairs the district’s ability to carry out its educational mission, including groups that create a reasonable risk of liability for violation of constitutional mandates.”
The district has also agreed that “outside persons” will no longer host or regularly attend student groups and that school employees will not sponsor religious activities or endorse religious groups. However, as is common with settlements, the district did not admit to committing any wrongdoing; it rather agreed to abide by certain conditions in the future.
Maxon applauded the agreement and the atheist activist Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), stating that the group helped to “successfully prosecute this case and secure removal of a church from a public school.”