Obama Judge Rules School Field Trips to Christian Sports Complex Violate Constitution

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JOPLIN, Mo. — A federal judge appointed to the bench by then-President Barack Obama has ruled that local public schools who took students on field trips to a Christian sports complex in Missouri violated the U.S. Constitution.

M. Douglas Harpool opined on Thursday that the voluntary trips to Victory Ministries and Sports Complex were “an impermissible entanglement of government, government funding, and government authority with a particular religion and religious message in violation of the Establishment Clause.”

According to reports, various schools within the Joplin School District visited the facility in 2014 and 2015, including North Middle School, which conducted the trip after students were provided an opportunity to vote on three options for their outing. School officials state that the majority of youth chose the sports complex. Students in the district also visited the facility for abstinence-only sexual education.

The students were sent home with permission slips and waivers, the latter of which included a clause where the parent agreed that their child had “permission to participate in worship services, Bible studies or any other activities that may pertain to the Christian faith.”

The American Humanist Association (AHA) soon became involved after some parents expressed concern. The organization specifically told Superintendent C.J. Huff that the North Middle School trip was unconstitutional, and that if it was not canceled, they would sue.

Huff acknowledged that the waiver language could have been worded differently, and Principal Brandon Eggleston advised that the paragraph would be omitted altogether in the future. Eggleston also instructed staff members attending the trip to ensure that no evangelistic activity occurred during the visit.

But AHA followed through with its lawsuit, which it filed on behalf of three students in the district, one of whom reportedly felt “sad and left out” in that they had to forego the event because their family is not Christian, and another who contended they never received a permission slip for the sex ed trip and went to the event without their parents’ knowledge.

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On Thursday, Harpool ruled that the district’s relationship with Victory Ministries is a “grave concern.”

“Entangling school district operations, curriculum, activities or opportunities with those of a religious organization or religious belief set is not permitted,” he wrote. “The government cannot pick from among the many religious beliefs of those it governs which it wishes to advance. While conservative fundamental evangelical Christian beliefs, such as those expressed by Victory, may predominate in the Joplin District, they are not universal.”

AHA applauded the outcome.

“The school district has been funneling money and impressionable students to a religious ministry that is in the business of luring children to Christianity, and we’re glad that the court could see that this is clearly unconstitutional activity,” said legal director David Niose in a statement.

As previously reported, in a recent dissenting opinion in a New Mexico Ten Commandments case, 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Judges Paul Kelly, Jr. and Chief Judge Timothy Tymkovich noted that the Establishment Clause is being interpreted incorrectly and not in “the historical understanding of an ‘establishment of religion,’ and thus with what the First Amendment actually prohibits.”

They explained that “[e]stablishment was … the norm in the American Colonies. Exclusive Anglican establishments reigned in the southern states, whereas localized Puritan establishments were the norm in New England, except in Rhode Island.”

This began in Europe, “the continent of origin for most American colonists,” Kelly outlined. “[E]ach country had long established its own state church—a generalized version of cuius regio, eius religio—over which each government exercised varying degrees of control. Germany and Scandinavia had official Lutheran establishments; Holland, a Reformed state church; France, the Gallican Catholic Church; Ireland, the Church of Ireland; Scotland, the Church of Scotland; and so on.”

Therefore, the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution regarding “respecting an establishment” only referred to showing favoritism to one state establishment over another, and solely applied to the federal government.

“From the words of the text, though, two conclusions are relatively clear: first, the provision originally limited the federal government and not the states, many of which continued to support established churches; and second, the limitation respected only an actual ‘establishment of religion,’” the federal judges outlined.


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  • Grace Kim Kwon

    Secular West is the only civilization that hates its own noble legacy and superb values. How sad. US kids should know where they came from by knowing Christianity.

  • SickandTired

    School Choice Via Vouchers, NOW!!

    • Amos Moses

      trading one form of government control for a different form of government control as a benefit will not fix this ……. it is a spiritual problem …..

  • InTheChurch

    More proof that the left is ungodly, no morals and no principles.

    • antifasciste

      There are many people living principled and moral lives with NO gods. We also don’t conform to your banal political categorization either.

      • Amos Moses

        “There are many people living principled and moral lives with NO gods”

        no they are not …….. they just think they are ….. they are deceived ………

      • Royce E. Van Blaricome

        Cite your evidence. On what basis do YOU claim to live a “principled and moral” life?

        • antifasciste

          The principles and morals by which I live my life are self evident. Some socially created and others as a product of rational discovery.

          • Royce E. Van Blaricome

            Self-evident only to yourself. Why not just admit they are of your own choosing? Those you like, you accept. Those you don’t, you reject.

            Therefore, your evidence is those who fit into your category of “principled and moral”.

          • antifasciste

            Whether I “like” someone or not has nothing to do with whether I would consider someone moral or principled, additionally my individual evaluation is irrelevant. Many people I know that identify as Christian, Muslim, Jew or agnostic also seem to be quite moral and principled. Society decides, as in socially constructed.

          • Royce E. Van Blaricome

            The “like” was referring to the conversation which is about “principled and moral”. Thus the quotes. Though I imagine you are being disingenuous.

            Your individual evaluation is hardly irrelevant. It’s all you have. My your own self-admission above.

            You and I both know that “society decides” is a joke. If Society decided to live according to Biblical principles, are you really gonna tell me that you take them on as your own? LOL

          • antifasciste

            Some aspects of what modern Western culture considers moral obviously parallel ideas in your Bible. However, whether the notion of helping others in need can be substantiated in a religious text is of no concern to me.

          • Royce E. Van Blaricome

            Cultures since the beginning of time parallel “ideas of the Bible” precisely because that’s where it all came from.

            As for the latter “notion”, thanks for proving my point. No surprise there.

      • InTheChurch

        You steal from God to live a principled life.
        You don’t have to conformed to me at all, thank God for that, but you have to answer to God and conform to Him. Good luck with that.

        • Chris

          How does one steal from God if one doesn’t believe in God?

          • InTheChurch

            The principles that are outlined in the Bible. Our laws were created to follow these principles. So we teach our children these principles church or no church.

          • Chris

            How is continuing to practice what you’ve been taught by your parents ‘stealing from God’?

            Additionally your statement assumes that every atheist was brought up by Christian parents. Some [I’ve no idea of the statistic] were not. Additionally many atheists have chosen an ethical system and follow it. The vast majority of ethical systems are NOT Christian nor are they based upon the existence of a God.

          • InTheChurch

            Could it be that your parents were christian or your grandparents were raised in church and they taught it? maybe a few generations back someone did. We will not discuss all of the atheists but just you.

          • Chris

            “Could it be that your parents were christian or your grandparents were
            raised in church and they taught it?”

            My mother and grandfather were devout Christians. Neither followed divine command theory if that’s what you’re getting at. My grandfather followed a virtue theory system of ethics.

            “We will not discuss all of the atheists but just you.”

            I’m not an atheist. I’m a Zoroastrian. Here’s a suggestion. Try asking me rather than assuming.

          • InTheChurch

            Ok, my bad, I will. I just did a quick search on Zoroastrian. I read that it was started by a gentleman in Iran. Is it Muslim based? What are the principles of this religion?

          • Chris

            It is far older than Islam which began around the 6th century CE.

            Zoroastrianism started around 1000 BCE. Traditionally ascribed to the prophet Zoroaster.

            It’s principles are simple – good thoughts, good words, good deeds. How is good defined? As loving kindness and the search for truth. That’s it. Each person has to work out for themselves how those principles should be applied in any situation.

            Zoroastrians are mentioned twice in your bible. Cyrus was a Zoroastrian as were the Magi.

          • InTheChurch

            Interesting, I did not know that. I learned something new today. Where did Zoroaster come up with these principles? Pretty simple principles. how big is the following in America, if you are in America?

          • Chris

            “Where did Zoroaster come up with these principles?”

            Through the exercise of reason.

            “Pretty simple
            principles.”

            I agree. I think that’s one of their virtues.

            “How big is the following in America, if you are in America?”

            I’m in Australia but I would say it isn’t that big comparatively speaking. Remarkably it is attracting members who are joining together across the internet.

          • InTheChurch

            I can see that. It’s your own journey and path. Some need to do it on their own and others need guidance or a mentor. I am a christian because I have found peace and love with God. The Bible helps a bunch. but, I have learned a lot from spending time with God in prayer and thinking about his word. I find it hard to ignore my spirit and deny that it exists. When I ask an atheist about their spirit being, they stop talking to me. It appears that they don’t want to talk about it. The Bible says that God is a spirit and we are to worship Him in spirit and in truth. Anyone can have God if they are in tuned with their spirit.

          • Chris

            “Anyone can have God if they are in tuned with their spirit.”

            An interesting idea. There’s a scene in a SF series called ‘Babylon 5’.

            In the scene an alien picks up an ant and let’s it run around on his hand for a while, then put it back again. He then turns to the human and says “do you think the ant immediately went and told his fellows what he had seen? Or did he rather just exclaim ‘What was that?’

            I think everyone who is ‘tuned in with their spirit’ are attempting to make sense of that ‘what was that’ moment in their lives.

          • InTheChurch

            I agree. We are looking and for us Christians, growing, trying to live according to God’s Word and to get to Heaven. I’m sure you are also on a journey like we are. We are not part of the world but just in it for a little while.

        • antifasciste

          How very non-existential of you. I don’t need to confirm to your imagination.

          • InTheChurch

            I got a serious question for you, do you believe that you have a spirit or soul?
            Let me say this, I believe that every human has a mind, body and spirit

          • antifasciste

            Firstly, believe does not equal know. I like Plato’s rhetoric device the tripartite soul. Reason, spirit and appetite, which is basically an amalgam of the aspects of human existence. If you’re asking me if I believe in some sort of metaphysical part of a human given by a diety… I’ve not seen any proof of that

          • InTheChurch

            Ok, down this silly path we go, show me proof of your love for your spouse, children or pet? Don’t give me the brain explanation, i know that, I want physical proof of love.

          • antifasciste

            Since love is a verb, the proof you seek would be the products of my actions.

          • InTheChurch

            That is true. But, for proof that is not enough. How much love do you produce or have in your body? I want an actual amount in liters, ounces or grams. I want physical proof.

          • antifasciste

            I want, I want, we all have wants, very few of which are satisfied. Love is not measured in mass or volume, rather energy. One unit of love = .001 kg * m2 / s2 or .001 J. I’m a bit surprised you haven’t found that formula in the little book of alchemy you enjoy.

          • InTheChurch

            I have many college textbooks and I have not seen that formula. The bible tells me that God is love. That is enough for me. Just like atheists WANT to see God, well, I want to see love. I just did a quick google search and I came up with 5 results for that formula. no one said anything about love. can you post a reference.

          • antifasciste

            Your confusion lies in your desire to objectively quantify a concept like love. Much like your idea of God, it can really only be measured in your mind.

          • InTheChurch

            so you have no reference to that formula.
            If God does not exist then your love for your spouse does not exist if you can not prove it, correct?

          • antifasciste

            I don’t think I ever said God does not exist, rather, I am skeptical of your parochial interpretation.

          • InTheChurch

            my narrow minded interpretation, Interesting? how complicated can God be? Can’t He be so simple that a 3 year can figure Him out?
            So does God exist?

          • antifasciste

            Existential Subjective Consciousness. God exists to the degree each person has created one in their mind.

          • InTheChurch

            So why are you on a Christian forum?
            Thank you for the Psych 101 lesson. I have a degree in psych. You are talking the mind and that is fine. how about the spirit? We have to address the other personality inside of you.
            I thought atheists don’t believe in the mind? What is the mind? can it be measured? physical proof of it? the brain is easy but the mind?
            The beauty of this all, when we pass, the truth will be revealed. Some will be happy, others surprised and other very angry.

          • antifasciste

            “So why are you on a Christian forum? ” I’m not invited to your party? A BA/BS in Psychology do not make you an expert, but I’m actually expressing ideas founded in philosophy… Kierkegaard and Camus. You’ve made an erroneous assumption about what lies in my spirit, but I really have no desire to seriously interact with you, so please feel free to carry on.

  • james blue

    I was against the ruling until I read the article.

    Had it just been a visit to a sports facility that just happened to be run by a Christian organization there would be no issue, but “worship services, Bible studies or any other activities that may pertain to the Christian faith.” made it an issue.

  • C_Alan_Nault

    I love Jesus

    • Jason Todd

      Troll.

  • Omnicopy

    They have control of the school and it won’t be undone just because of Trump

  • Lexical Cannibal

    All the people railing against this in the comments would be livid if the school had tried to take their students to an Islamic sports center.

    You think maybe we don’t feel the same way about you?

    • The General

      You think we care if atheists hate us?

      Your hate is the sign that we must be doing things right.

      • Ambulance Chaser

        Why?

        • Amos Moses

          still cant connect the dots …… you need to borrow a crayon …….. and get glasses ……………

      • Lexical Cannibal

        I’m actually not an atheist, but thanks for playing!

        I also don’t hate you. Weird that you’d jump straight to that. I just don’t want you pushing your faith on my kids any more than you want Muslims pushing their faith on your kids. Seems like an arrangement could be made, no? Like some sort of…middle ground…truce…neutrality…oh, the present legal interpretation of the establishment clause! That could work! That way nobody’s kids get pressured to join someone else’s religion, while at school. Doesn’t that sound nice?

        Nobody likes their kids being targeted by zealots, is my point, really.

      • LadyInChrist♥BlessedBeTheLord

        Amen.

    • Amos Moses

      there is a way that seems right to a man …… and it leads to destruction …….

  • WithNoDoubt

    While
    the First Amendment undoubtedly was intended to preclude the government from
    establishing a national religion as the dissenting judges noted, that was hardly the limit of its
    intended scope. They opine on the historical understanding, while exhibiting considerable ignorance of it. The first Congress debated and rejected just such a narrow
    provision as they suppose (“no religion shall be established by law, nor shall the equal rights
    of conscience be infringed”) and ultimately chose the more broadly phrased
    prohibition now found in the Amendment. Moreover, during his presidency, Madison vetoed
    two bills, neither of which would form a national religion or compel observance
    of any religion, on the ground that they were contrary to the establishment
    clause. While some in Congress expressed surprise that the Constitution
    prohibited Congress from incorporating a church in the town of Alexandria in
    the District of Columbia or granting land to a church in the Mississippi
    Territory, Congress upheld both vetoes. Separation of church and state is
    hardly a new invention of modern courts.
    In keeping with the Amendment’s terms and legislative history and other
    evidence, the courts have wisely interpreted it to restrict the government from
    taking steps that could establish religion de facto as well as de jure. Were
    the Amendment interpreted merely to preclude government from enacting a statute
    formally establishing a state church, the intent of the Amendment could easily
    be circumvented by government doing all sorts of things to promote this or that
    religion–stopping just short of cutting a ribbon to open its new church.

  • Reason2012

    A christian SPORTS complex is a violation of the Constitution, but an_islamic call to prayer is deemed just fine in a Texas public Liberty High School. This shows you that it’s not really about supposed Constitution violation by religion, but an anti-Christianity pro-islam enemy activists in our government attacking our country from within.

    • Ambulance Chaser

      I can find no evidence that there is a call to Islamic prayer at Liberty High School.

    • Croquet_Player

      Liberty High School has set aside a classroom for a few Muslim students to pray in on Fridays. Before they were able to use the room, their parents would pick them up and drive them to a site 30 minutes away, and they would miss class. Students, of any faith, may pray in school. The notion that there exists “an anti-Christianity pro-islam enemy activists in our government attacking our country from within” is completely ridiculous and simply bonkers.

    • antifasciste

      The increasing majority of the people in the US are secular. Thankfully people in the US are emerging from the dark ages of religion…All religion.

    • antifasciste

      Fabricating tales of pursecution does not make your claims valid. It just makes you look paranoid.

  • C_Alan_Nault

    You lost me at Obama….

  • ebexonusa

    We need more real Christians in politics, education, law and civil servant.