Jesus Lunch Not Welcome

2016 | Week of April 25 | #1148

“Jesus Lunch.” That’s a catchy name for what’s become a pretty contentious issue in the city of Middleton, just west of Madison.

Apparently in the fall of 2014, a few Christian moms decided to join their high-school kids for lunch and try to encourage them in their faith. Their meeting place was the City of Middleton’s Fireman’s Park, which is adjacent to the school. Because Middleton High School has an open campus policy for lunch, the students were free to leave the building and join their moms.

As these few kids told their friends, the group began growing and growing and growing.  Recently, the moms have been feeding some 500 students.
The students are the ones who gave this lunch program the name “Jesus Lunch.”

The moms have made the lunches free to any kids who show up; and after eating, any students who want can stay for a 3-5 minute devotional or prayer time.  No one is compelled to attend the lunch or to stay for the devotional part. They can eat the free home-cooked meal and run, if they want.  By the same token, no one is refused if they want to come to the lunch in the park.

So why all the flap over this seemingly refreshing idea? It turns out that the Middleton School District has an arrangement with the City of Middleton to lease the Fireman’s Park each school day from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. The School District believes the contract they have signed stipulates that the school rules apply to events in the park during school hours of school days. The moms disagree. Their attorney says the contract the Middleton School District has regarding park use doesn’t exclude other citizens from using the park during that time.  In fact, the moms also have a contract from the City of Middleton indicating they can use the park for the time they are doing the lunch.

The school district argues that since their students are participating in this during the time that the school district, in their opinion, “controls” the park, the lunch is in violation of school policy.  They claim that since it’s on, again in their opinion, school property, so to speak, then it is a school function, which means the food and food preparation have to meet certain standards, the event must be student led and approved by the administration.  And the moms say, no, with the school’s open campus for lunch policy and their right to be in the park as citizens, and with the City of Middleton’s blessing, then this isn’t an official school program.  This is just like kids going home for lunch or to an area restaurant.

So, that’s the background.  Recently, and likely because the numbers have grown so large, the lunch drew the attention of school officials and they decided to stop it—or try to stop it. Freedom From Religion Foundation joined the fray this past Tuesday during the lunch, bringing their staff members, materials on atheism, and free cookies with them and setting up shop adjacent to where the moms operate.

I don’t pretend to know how this will end because of all the legalities involved, but I do believe it’s worth asking what the school district’s reaction and actions would be if this was a group of Muslim moms doing the same thing. I’d like to think this isn’t a war on Christianity and that anyone doing this type of lunch would face the same ire that these moms have from school officials. However, I can’t say that’s the case.  More and more I believe Christianity is becoming the number-one target in our society.

If the legal resolution says the moms can’t use the very convenient park, there’s nothing preventing them from moving the “Jesus Lunch” to another place in the city that’s also easy and quick for students to get to on their lunch hour. If they have a truly legal right to be in the Fireman’s Park, then of course, the moms should stay there. The attorneys—and sadly maybe the court—will have to sort that out. But I hope however this goes, they keep going with their free-lunch ministry to physically and spiritually hungry high school students.

School districts welcome liberal ideologies in their classrooms, events such as Day of Silence to promote homosexuality, and happily include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression as protected classes.  But Jesus is not welcome as anything other than a curse word and sometimes as a historical character.

These situations make me yearn for the days when the school-house and the church-house were one and the same in our nation’s communities, when government had absolutely no say in what or where kids ate their lunch, and when parents and Jesus were both welcomed at school any time.

This is Julaine Appling for Wisconsin Family Council reminding you the prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”

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