A Wisconsin public school agreed to stop promoting an evangelical Christian “modesty” program aimed at girls and move it off school property after Americans United for Separation of Church and State raised objections.
Officials at the Kimberly Area School District had planned to sponsor an event called “Secret Keeper Girl The Bod Squad Tour.” Local parents contacted AU after learning that the program was a religious outreach aimed at schoolgirls in grades three through six and their mothers.
Sponsored by a group called Pure Freedom, the program seeks to get youngsters to dress modestly and to remain sexually pure in keeping with “the will of God.”
Handbills touting the Oct. 1 event made its “faith-based message” clear. One flyer exulted, “You’ll never have so much fun digging into God’s word!” In addition to a modesty fashion show, the event featured a performance by a Christian recording artist whose music is about “following passionately after Christ.”
The “Secret Keeper Girl” program was being promoted by public school officials, funded by a public school-affiliated foundation and held at Kimberly High School. In a Sept. 28 letter, AU attorneys warned that school promotion of religion violates the U.S. Constitution.
“Accordingly,” AU wrote, “we request that the District promptly take steps to fully disassociate the District from the Secret Keeper Girl event.”
“The courts are very clear,” Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn told the Appleton Post-Crescent. “A public school cannot sponsor or promote or pay for a clearly religious event, and the Secret Keeper Girl event is entirely religious.”
School officials immediately contacted AU to say that they were distancing themselves from the event. Superintendent Mel Lightner told WBAY-TV that AU had a point and he did not want to see the district drawn into a lawsuit.
“The school districts are under a tight budget,” Lightner said. “Frankly, I felt if we had to defend a lawsuit, [it is] probably not worth the money to spend.”
Organizers agreed to move the program to Christ the Rock Community Church in Menasha. The change ended up being positive because the church holds more people than the school auditorium. Some 1,100 people reportedly were able to attend the event.
The “Secret Keeper Girl” rallies were created by Dannah Gresh, an author of Christian fiction, including a series of books for girls. Gresh’s Web site, www.purefreedom.org, details similar events around the country, nearly all of them held in evangelical churches.
One of Gresh’s most popular books is titled And the Bride Wore White: Seven Secrets to Purity. Her Web site says, “This story-line grips the young reader while they learn statistically proven risk-reduction factors. The end result is usable ‘how-to-say-no’ skills that can reduce the risk of a young woman’s heart being broken by sexual sin.”
Gresh also appears at “Purity Balls,” formal dances where fathers pledge to protect their daughters’ virtue.
“The Bible lays the responsibility of protecting daughters at the feet of their fathers,” an online description asserts. “We desire to charge men to take up this mantle of responsibility! God thinks the protection of a woman’s purity should be extravagant and so do we! We look forward to this formal evening and hope you will join us.”