Anoka-Hennepin Christian club accused of harassing non-religious students
|Daniel Buschow was accused of having influence on Christian student groups.|
Melissa Thompson, the mother of a Blaine High School student, says she's been complaining that members of an after-school Christian group called "Catalyst" have been pressuring her child to join for months. Thompson says she identifies as Christian, but her child does not.
At first, the school principal and district administrators seemed to agree with Thompson that the group was overstepping its boundaries and took steps to limit its activity. That was met by a backlash from Christian students and their parents.
|Melissa Thompson speaking before the school board.|
"This student's comments go far beyond a simple acknowledgment of his faith or an answer to a question (both would be within his religious rights)," Thompson wrote. "He needs to be approached and asked to stop."
The teacher wrote back saying that she'd met with the school's administration over the incident. Nevertheless, Thompson said the Catalyst student continued to ask her child to the meetings almost every Tuesday.
While Thompson is the only parent coming forward publicly to complain about the group, another student posted a YouTube "rant" about Catalyst. The student says he's been "personally harassed by this group," told "countless times" to attend the meetings, and that he's "going to burn in hell for my sins." He characterizes the group as a "Christian conversion organization."
Seven months after her initial complaint, Thompson sent another email to Blaine High School principal John Phelps, saying she was "absolutely shocked" by her own research into Catalyst.
Thompson became concerned after seeing that the website domain is actually owned by Daniel Buschow, the founder of an organization called Allies Ministry. According to Allies's website, its mission is to "build partnerships to reach and mentor the next generation by reaching every student, on every campus, in every community with the simple, yet life-changing message of knowing God in a personal way." Thompson provided the district with some of the literature from the Catalyst website and expressed concern that Buschow -- not students -- is actually leading the clubs, producing the literature, and paying for posters, food, and other activities. If this is true, the clubs would be in violation of the Equal Access Act, which permits religious clubs at school so long as they are "student-initiated" and that no one in the community "direct, conduct, control, or regularly attend meetings."
On April 4, Thompson received a letter back from the district.