Rural Minnesota High School Target of Backlash from Humanist Group over Abstinence Talk

Dec 12, 2014 03:32 PM EST

Abstinence Talk, Chastity, Purity

A high school in rural Luverne, Minn. is getting pressure this week after one parent complained to a national organization about an abstinence talk that freshman were given the opportunity to attend at a neighboring campus on Sept. 30. 

Now, the American Humanist Association - whose motto is 'Good without a God' - has stepped in on behalf of that individual, and sent Luverne Public Schools a warning letter on Dec. 9.

The association's website states "Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity."

Citing the incident with Luverne high school students as "egregious conduct," the humanist group demanded assurance that a similar situation would never occur again.

"The purpose of this letter is to advise you that said actions are unconstitutional and must not be permitted to occur again," it reads.  "If we are informed that any similar actions are attempted by your school system, we will not hesitate to bring an action in federal court to remedy the situation, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as damages and attorney's fees."

Randy Perkins, who pulled his 14-year-old son from attending the talk, alleges that school staff completely disregarded the separation of church and state by sending students to hear Jason Evert, of the Chastity Project, give his 'Love or Lust' presentation.

According to the organization's website, the organization - founded by Evert and his wife, Crystalina - exists to promote the virtue of chastity so that individuals can see God, and be free to love in a Godly manner.

Perkins said he considers Evert's strategy of deliberately scrubbing the religious langue of real 'love or lust' sermon and materials for public school presentation and distribution nothing more than a cheap, secularized Trojan horse for his fundamentalist and sex-obsessed ministry business.

"They scrub this. It's very deliberate," Perkins said. "It's kind of disguising."

Ryan Johnson, principal at Luverne Middle and High School, said on Tuesday, "In the nature of the actual event and what was spoken of, it was fine. I think there was just other things beyond that -- some of the literature that was given out may have crossed the line."  Johnson approved the presentation for students.

But the humanist group wants Luverne Public Schools to guarantee that they will not provide programs like the purity talk in the future.

"When a public school presents  religiously biased materials as a health curriculum, it not only unconstitutionally violates the separation of church and state but also does a disservice to our young people," David Niose, legal director of the American Humanist Association's Appignani Humanist Legal Center, said.

Brian Gilbertson, principal of Edgerton Public School, says that he and his staff are in agreement that the presentation provided by Evert on his campus was non-religious - the exact program they had signed up for.

"We teach all types of health issues to our kids," said Gilbertson.  Evert presented abstinence as a way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases, he added. 

And the mission of Luverne Middle and High School mirrors Gilbertson's words.

"Staff, students and community will work to provide quality education and co-curriculars that result in high individual achievement in all areas of life."

The talk, hosted by Helping Hands Pregnancy Center, provided students information on abstinence, and Evert - who gives presentations at public and private schools - said he only provided Luverne students with the non-religious information.

"My last intention is to recruit the kids into any denomination," Evert told the Associated Press on Tuesday. "We're just here to support the parents and school."