LACONIA, N.H. — A prominent professing atheist group that seeks to separate God from government has succeeded in stopping a church from distributing gospel literature and an invitation to Sunday services to attendees of a state-affiliated hunter’s safety class held at the house of worship.
“These proselytizing handouts are supremely insulting to non-Christians and unbelievers,” the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) wrote to the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department on June 28.
“The State of New Hampshire has no business holding workshops of vital importance to hunting safety that berate attendees as ‘sinners,’ etc,” it said. “Such a misuse of a state function for sectarian, proselytizing purposes is disgraceful.”
The organization states that it was contacted by an individual who attended the class, which was held at Heritage Free Will Baptist Church in Laconia. The training was taught by one of the pastors, and included with the study packet and other hunter’s safety information was a document that provided the ABC’s of salvation, as well as another that invited attendees to Heritage’s Sunday services.
FFRF asserts that the church’s inclusion of the flyers with the class studies violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution because it creates the appearance of a government endorsement of religion.
“Allowing churches to distribute their religious literature through a class co-sponsored by New Hampshire Fish and Game constitutes government endorsement and advancement of religion,” it contended in its letter. “It also sends the ancillary message to members of the audience who are non-adherents that ‘they are outsiders, not full members of the political community …'”
FFRF requested that the department investigate the matter and disallow the distribution of religious materials at future classes. It also asked that the state discontinue hosting hunter’s safety training at churches altogether.
On July 10, Glenn Normandeau, the executive director of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, responded to FFRF. He advised that the matter was investigated as requested and that class instructors have been directed not to distribute anything other than what pertains to the training.
“I want to assure you that we do take the complaint seriously, and have confirmed that materials were in fact provided to participants that were unauthorized and outside of the approved curriculum,” Normandeau wrote. “We have taken corrective action in the matter, and are reaffirming with all of our instructors that no materials should be distributed in any class other than those which are part of the approved curriculum.”
He did not mention discontinuing utilizing churches for the class.
FFRF says that it is “thrilled” with the outcome of the situation, which Co-President Dan Barker referred to as a “transgression.”
Christian News Network reached out to Heritage Free Will Baptist Church, but a response was not received.
Noah Webster, known as the Father of American Education, once said, “The moral principles and precepts contained in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. All the miseries and evils which men suffer from—vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery, and war—proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.”