Humanist group files lawsuit against Joplin Schools challenging - KOAM TV 7

Humanist group files lawsuit against Joplin Schools challenging field trip to Christian sports complex

JOPLIN, MISSOURI - A Humanist group has filed a lawsuit against the Joplin School District, challenging a student field trip to a Christian sports complex.

The group says the field trip violates separation of church and state laws.

A class field trip taken by students at Joplin North Middle School on May 8 has resulted in litigation against the school principal and the district superintendent.

A parent of one of the students, who has chosen to remain anonymous, was concerned by the permission slip for the trip to Victory Ministries & Sports Complex, a Christian facility.

"It certainly does go against parent rights because the parent has the right to send his or her child to a school that does not favor one religion over another," said David Niose, legal director for American Humanist Association. "To say that the majority religion can have a field trip going to a ministry that promotes its religion and religious minorities can just stay home from school that day, well that's not fair."

The field trip waiver requested permission for the children to participate in worship services, Bible studies or any other activities that may pertain to the Christian faith.

Although included in the permission slip, school officials say no such activities took place.

A written statement from school officials reads, "We received information today regarding a lawsuit related to a student field trip to Victory Ministry and Sports Complex. That information has been shared with our school attorney and is under review. The field trip was secular in nature, and the location was chosen by the students as a celebration. No religious exercises or proselytizing took place on the field trip nor has the lawsuit alleged any such activity took place. We are confident in a positive outcome regarding this case once the facts are revealed."

"The venue itself is just filled with religious proselytizing and religious messaging," Niose said. "We made every effort to avoid litigation here. We even pointed out the problem before the field trip was taken, and the school authorities just decided to do it anyway."
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