The controversial fundamentalist Christian group known as the Todd Becker Foundation (TBF) is at again – this time, visiting and speaking at a Minnesota public school assembly, a local newspaper reported.
According to a story in the Caledonia Argus, Keith Becker, who created the Nebraska-based evangelical foundation in memory of his late brother Todd, spoke to Caledonia High School students in a Nov. 30 assembly that troubled many parents.
“The school administration and staff were excellent to work with and we found the student body to be exceptionally respectful, receptive and engaged during the school day assembly,” Becker said after the assembly, which was partially funded by local churches. “Further, we felt the students responded very well to the assembly and that many were positively impacted.”
But the community reaction said otherwise. According to the report, Becker’s presentation had “some students and community members feeling uplifted and moved, while others felt put out and insulted,” and parents questioned why the school agreed to host the assembly.
It comes as no shock that many students felt excluded or insulted. The TBF has a history of proselytizing and spewing homophobic venom. Its main goal is to evangelize public school students.
Time and time again, TBF has proven to not abide by church-state separation. In 2010, Americans United warned TBF about its unconstitutional practices, noting that TBF “can be held responsible for infringing on the religious neutrality of public schools.”
But TBF didn’t stop. In fact, its speakers continue to appear at public school assemblies while masking its activities as issue-based talks that tackle student struggles such as alcoholism and drug problems. The group’s website notes that it has held assemblies in 300 different schools in 11 states.
How does this organization keep worming its way into public schools? It’s actually quite sneaky. The foundation’s reps offer talks on secular subjects relevant to teens, but they quickly pivot to fundamentalist fear-mongering.
This fellow does not belong in your local public school.
The group often holds an assembly for students during the day that includes religious content. But while there speakers plug another event at the school in the evening. The latter event is voluntary but is usually promoted by the school, and students are encouraged to attend. There they get a hellfire sermon.
“If you consume alcohol or drugs or have sex and are underage you are going to hell,” Becker reportedly told students at an evening assembly at the school. “If you are a homosexual, you need to come down from the crowd get down on your knees and give your life over to Jesus, or you will go to hell.”
Becker’s disturbing force-feeding of fundamentalism didn’t end there. Steve Meyer, a pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, a local church, said that Becker advised the religious leaders he invited to go up to students after the event and talk to them about their “sins.” Meyer, who attended the event, said he thought Becker’s message was too extreme.
“Any wrong decision that anyone has made at any point meant you were a sinner and were going to hell, and I don’t agree with that message. There was no grace at all,” Meyer said of the assembly messaging.
Public schools are supposed to be a sanctuary for all students regardless of their beliefs, non-beliefs, sexual orientation, etc. They are not places for Becker and his cohorts to seek converts.
“We should’ve done a better job in vetting the speaker,” Ben Barton, the school superintendent, said of the assembly.
Indeed, and any other public school official considering hosting TBF should jump into the 21st century and use the magical tool known as Google to read about TBF’s horrendous history of church-state violations and religious discrimination. You don’t need an extreme vetting system for this, I promise.
In the meantime, if you get wind of a group like this coming to the public schools of your town, report it to us.