Once again we see the First Amendment rights of a Christian being trampled upon by the whining complaint of one atheist.
Tim Saffeels is the Director of Student Ministries at Salem Heights Church in Oregon. He also volunteers at nearby Straub Middle School; that is until an eighth grade atheist wrote a letter of complaint against him and sent to the Principal Laura Perez.
According to the student, Shelby Conway, Saffeels was talking to students in the cafeteria, asking them what their religion was. She contends that when she told him she was an atheist that he said it was wrong, bad, stupid and evil. In her letter to Perez, Conway wrote:
“[She was] very uncomfortable and personally offended with the way he was speaking to both me and other non-Christians around the lunch room.”
“I request that we keep things like this, such as pastors and religious speeches, in places where they are welcomed, such as churches or religious schools.”
Like many school administrators, they react before they get all of the facts. Perez immediately banned Saffeels from volunteering at the school for the remainder of the year.
Saffeels says that the student has greatly exaggerated what took place and that he never used any of those words nor was he aware of any problem until he heard from Perez. He told the local media:
“I wasn’t in any way trying to force any of those things. They actually did ask me ‘Who is Jesus?’”
“None of those things came out of my mouth. I didn’t say any of those things.”
“I don’t go in with wires trying to search out students that disagree with my worldview. My purpose is visiting schools that students have invited me to. The purpose in being there was to develop relationships and mentoring the students from our church. In a time of hardship, then there would be a familiar face that can cruise them through it.”
Saffeels said that when one student asked about Jesus, he asked of the other students there at the time who are a part of his ministry to answer the question. According to Mary Paulson, the Chief of Staff for the school district:
“If the student had questions about a topic that isn’t appropriate for a volunteer to talk about, the expectation would be that they would refer them to somebody who could talk to them about the topic, like their parent or their own church officials.”
When the media tried to contact Conway about what happened, her parents refused to allow her to talk to them.
Unless there have been new recently passed federal laws, I was informed a few years ago by the Christian Law Association that if a student initiates a conversation about religion and asks questions, any teacher or faculty member is legally allowed to respond as long as they did not initiate the conversation to begin with. But the law doesn’t matter when it comes to trampling down the First Amendment rights of Christians. Schools opt to err on the side of liberal whiners than to follow the law and defend the rights of the majority.
Christians need to start standing up for their constitutional rights when they have been wrongfully violated. Jesus stood up against the Pharisees and Sadducees when they were wrong and we need to follow His example. Pastor Tim Saffeels needs to contact someone like the Christian Law Association or Liberty Counsel and have them help him regain his rights and privileges to volunteer at the school. That’s what it means to Stand up for Jesus!