No more school day Bible study in parking lot

A photo of the Bible Club Movement International mobile home taken by the Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists. MACRA says the bus was on public school property at the time. (Courtesy photo)

HUDSONVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — The group responsible for the removal of religious symbols on public properties in Ottawa County now says Hudsonville Public Schools broke the law when it allowed Bible Club Ministries International access to students during school hours on school property.

The Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists is the same group that fought for the removal of the large white cross on Dewey Hill in Grand Haven and a religious sign at Hager Park.

The group says the situation at Hudsonville’s South Elementary came to its attention a couple of weeks ago when it was contacted by a concerned parent. MACRA says it found that Bible Club Ministries International was bringing a motor home to South Elementary and offering religious instruction to students during recess.

“This is a violation of the rights of all taxpayers and all private citizens,” said Mitch Kahle of MACRA.

Michigan state law allows public school students to take part in religious instruction during school hours, but only if it happens somewhere other than school property. MACRA said it took a photo of the motor home on South Elementary property during school hours.

In an email to 24 Hour News 8, the district’s attorney said the Hudsonville students were previously picked up in the motor home during their recess or lunch period with parent permission, after which it would park off school property, lessons would be given, and then the motor home brought students back to school. Recently, the motor home simply remained parked in the school lot during the lessons.

“When this was brought to the attention of the District’s Central Office Administration, the District agreed that BCM should not be allowed to provide religious instruction during the school day while parked in the District’s lot,” the attorney wrote in part.

Hudsonville Public Schools says it is working with BCM International to change when the lessons are offered.

“We have since addressed this with Bible Club Ministries International. It is their intention to make adjustments to their schedule to continue to offer this opportunity to students and their families either before or after school,” the district said in a Thursday statement.

BCM Ministries provided this statement Saturday:

“Bible Club Ministries International is taking necessary action to ensure its involvement on public school property is in accordance with local and state laws. We are working directly with each school, volunteers and the parents of children involved to ensure a smooth transition in the scheduling of our programming.”

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