Most people associate school gym classes with ill-fitting outfits, impatient coaches and diabolical rope climbs. But one school district in Ohio wants to make gym classes feel more like Sunday school.
Lebanon City Schools (located in between Dayton and Cincinnati), invited a group called His Pins to teach archery with a side of proselytizing to its students during physical education classes. The group is run by Christian clergy and its classes are “wrapped up with a short devotion, often times using the bow or archery analogies as the teaching tool,” according to the website for Grace Chapel in Dayton.
The ACLU of Ohio said His Pins started out in churches but has since expanded to public schools, and its classes are taught by clergy. His Pins is particularly interested in pushing creationist teachings on children, the ACLU asserts.
The assistant director of His Pins, who is also a youth pastor at Countryside Church of the Nazarene (Lebanon), said in a local news report that he teaches archery “as well as the work of God,” and that “talking about creation” is a program goal.
His Pins said it even has a “wildly popular” game called “archery tag” in which kids get to shoot each other with soft-tipped arrows. When Jesus said “suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” in Mathew 19:14, I don’t think this is what he had in mind.
Naturally it raised some eyebrows that an overtly Christian group would be teaching public school gym classes, so the ACLU fired off a complaint to Lebanon City Schools.
“This group openly admits that they are proselytizing to public school students during classroom time,” ACLU of Ohio staff attorney Drew Dennis said in a press release. “These children are legally required to attend public school; that makes them a captive audience. When outside instructors take advantage of this fact to advance their own religious views, it sends a message that the school endorses one set of religious beliefs above all others.”
Perhaps the school district is seeking to capitalize on the popularity of “The Hunger Games” book/movie series about a teenage girl armed with a bow and arrow who must fight for her life in a future dystopian society’s national gladiatorial games. Youngsters love the series, but that’s absolutely no excuse for inviting clergy to proselytize to students during the school day.
The ACLU has asked the school district to take steps to prevent His Pins from teaching creationism, but that’s letting the district off too easily. These people are proselytizers and have to go.
No public school should force its students to take classes with evangelical Christian clergy who are out to save souls. Such “teachers” likely can’t be trusted not to preach, and inviting them into a school is simply asking for trouble.
There are plenty of gym teachers who are happy to instruct in dodge ball, climbing ropes, tennis – and nothing more. Let’s hope the school district hits the mark and sticks with teachers who don’t have saving souls on their agenda.