Michigan school cancels ‘illegal’ Bible study

HUDSONVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — After being called out by a local civil rights organization, a Hudsonville elementary school has put an end to a Bible study that was taking place during lunchtime.

Hudsonville Public Schools officials report that the Bible study group had met only twice and the teacher overseeing the meeting didn’t know he was breaking any rules or laws. Assistant Superintendent Scott Smith said the administration took swift action in response to the complaint after the Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists group contacted the school.

Hudsonville Public Schools released the following statement on the situation:

“Mitch Kahle, of Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists (MACRA) informed the District that an elementary teacher was involved in a Bible-based discussion with a group of fifth-grade students during their lunch recess. District administration verified the details of Mr. Kahle’s report, and the teacher (who thought the Bible discussion was appropriate because it was during lunch and voluntary) immediately put an end to these lunch meetings. We will continue to communicate and educate staff at all levels on the District’s policies related to religion in schools,” the written statement read.

District leaders declined a request for an on-camera interview.

MACRA sent out a release announcing its victory in getting the meetings canceled.

“The Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists (MACRA) has compelled the Hudsonville Public Schools to immediately terminate a teacher-led Bible study that was held weekly at Alward Elementary School in Hudsonville over many years… Furthermore, this illegal and unconstitutional activity was being conducted without parental notification or consent,” the news release read. “One parent told MACRA that their child, who is only 10 years old, was singled out and subjected to peer pressure for declining to attend the Bible studies.”

“For more than 50 years now, the U.S. Supreme Court has expressly prohibited all organized religious activity in public schools, especially when such activity involves teachers, principals, staff, or any adult, including volunteers, and is conducted on school property during school hours,” the release from MACRA continued.

MACRA and HPS are at odds over some of the facts surrounding the situation. MACRA contends that the Bible study sessions were held for years while the school says the group only met twice.

The district is adamant that the school principal and other administrators were unaware of the meetings, a notion MACRA clearly questions.

“Assistant Superintendent Smith’s claim that the ‘District administration was not aware’ rings hollow, as Principal McClure and the teachers were most certainly aware of the long-running transgression,” the MACRA statement reads.

Assistant Superintendent Smith said the district had received no complaints about the meetings other than the one from MACRA.

MACRA said its complaint to the school was in response to reports from families at the school.

It’s not the first time MACRA has challenged Hudsonville Public Schools on a matter like this. In 2015, the school was challenged for allowing students to meet in a camper outside the school for a Bible study during school hours.

MACRA also got involved in the effort to stop the display of a cross on Dewey Hill in Grand Haven and a Bible verse on display in Jenison’s Hager Park.