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ICC Note: Last month, the Freedom from Religion Foundation issued a letter of complaint to the superintendent of a Missouri school district after hearing that a youth pastor was leading students from Hollister Middle School in prayer during the lunch period. According to the superintendent, the regular lunchtime prayers were student-initiated, but the youth minister had been invited to lead the group for the day. Students at the school have responded by continuing their lunchtime prayers and supporters have shown their support with the hashtag #praywithhollister on social media.

By Heather Clark

03/12/2016 United States (Christian News Network) – Students in a Missouri school district are pushing back after a professing atheist organization recently sent a letter to district officials, demanding that an area youth pastor be prohibited from leading prayers during the lunch period.

The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) had sent a letter last month to Hollister Superintendent Brian Wilson after a parent complained about a video posted on social media that showed a youth minister leading students in prayer.

“The video depicts an adult leading the entire lunchroom in a prayer with all of the students surrounding him in a circle,” attorney Patrick Elliott wrote. “The parent’s child also reports that students were directed in a similar prayer all of last week and this week as well during the seventh-grade lunch.”

The pastor was found to be a member of the Tri-Lakes chapter of KLIFE, which according to its website, “works alongside churches and families in the community to teach and encourage kids to be strong in the Lord in spite of all the negative pressures they face as teenagers.”

“When the school grants KLIFE ministers access to students, it advances KLIFE’s mission of proselytizing. In many cases, we have found that similar youth programs use schools to befriend students with the goal of spreading a religious message and recruiting members for their youth groups,” FFRF wrote. “No religious organization should have direct access to students at school.”

FFRF referred to the ministry’s activities as “predatory conduct.”

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