Grand Rapids Group Discourages Proselytizing

The Grand Rapids Atheists and Freethinkers (GRAF) became aware of a poster for prayer meetings at the Robert J. Elkington Middle School every Monday morning.  They got Calli Miller, one of the lawyers at the Freedom from Religion Foundation, involved and a letter was sent to the Grand Rapids School District.

The response did not come from Superintendent Bruce Thomas, but from Maggie R. Wallner.  She is a lawyer in Minneapolis (180 miles away) who often represents school boards.  She indicated that the activity was a student-initiated, student run club and that the "staff member's" role was purely supervisory.  She did, however, state the following: "The School District does not sponsor or endorse the ‘Prayer Time'; however, we will request that a statement be added to the students’ poster to clarify that fact.”

The "staff member" being played down in that letter is the new gym teacher, Zachary Holsman.  While playing ball at Northwestern College, he listed his proudest accomplishment as "becoming a Christian" and his favorite quote as Colossians 3:2, "Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things."

Members of GRAF are keeping an eye on this situation, to ensure that all parties hold up their ends of this agreement.  Cathi Harding, a member of that group, is even looking into whether a branch of the Secular Student Alliance can be established there.