School district cancels offsite Bible study classes after parent complaint

Posted at 5:39 PM, May 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-18 17:41:19-04

FREMONT, Mich. -- Fremont Public Schools canceled its Bible Release Time program after a parent complained. It's a Bible study held during lunchtime, off-site at the Fremont Weslyan Church.

Terveer is just one of the parents upset after the district suspended the program. Her daughter attends Daisy Brook Elementary School.

Terveer said, “I explained it a little bit to my daughter. She was pretty confused about why they were doing this and who was doing it. She’s only 10.”

“I don’t agree with it because I don’t believe it is a violation of the first amendment. It’s not on school property. Parents have to sign their kids. It’s completely optional," she explained.

The study lasted about 45 minutes, and the kids were picked up by a church van. But the school said suspending the program was the best option after a complaint from a parent prompted the Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists to send a letter to the district. MACRA posted on its Facebook page:

"The "Bible Release Time" program at Daisy Brook is clearly designed to promote and support one particular religion, pastor, and church, and is thus an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. Such programs are discriminatory and violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States."

Pastor John Perkins spearheads the Bible study program and said he hosts these classes in multiple districts.

“I have 18 classes that I teach a month. So I go by Kent City, Grant, Newaygo, Fremont, White Cloud, and Hesperia," Perkins said.

He said he just learned of the cancellation in Fremont yesterday.

“We were supposed to have one yesterday and one Monday, and they told me to cancel it and they me why," Perkins stated.

So he said he called his attorney.

“He said that by law as long as I have permission slips, as long as the parents sign those permission slips, and I take the kids off campus to a church or wherever that I’m within my legal rights to do that," Perkins said.

But Fremont superintendent Ken Haggart issued this statement saying:

"In light of complaints from the MI Association of Civil Rights activists, it was recommended by school attorneys to discontinue the program for the remainder of year [sic], allowing us to take time to make sure things are done correctly. The school hopes to continue the program in the future.”

Parents like Terveer said they understand the school’s decision but don’t know why anyone would file the complaint in the first place.

Terveer said, "In my opinion, if you're not physically or emotionally hurt by it, I don't know why somebody would make such a big fuss."

The parents and the pastor are hopeful the program will return in the fall.

MACRA did not respond to FOX 17 for further comment.