Equal Access Act, Young Life, and Religious Activities in Schools

Is anyone familiar with the federal Equal Access Act which gives secondary school students the right to equal access to public school facilities for religious meetings? The link for the act is :

usdoj.gov/crt/cor/byagency/ed4071.htm

My specific questions are:

–Are middle schools (grades 5 through 8) considered to be “secondary schools” according the the law?

–Does the law give groups like Young Life the right to lead the these meetings?

–Does anyone have experience with groups like Young Life having access to the public schools (during the school day, before or after school)? If so, what is Young Life allowed to do?

–Does Young Life (in your area or experience) call itself “non-denominational Christian” or does it call itself “Protestant”?

–Are Catholic kids involved in the Young Life activities in your area? If so, do you think if Young Life called itself “non-denominational Protestant Christian” that fewer Catholic kids would participate?

I thought the law applied to all grades, secondary and elementary.

Yes, young Life has a right to run them.However, a Catholic group can also go in and run a group!

They are allowed to take kids who have permission from their parents and teach whatever they want to. Technically, I think Satanists could come in under this same program, but parent permission is required before kids can attend.

First of all, Young Life is supposed to be non- denom. In some organizations, Catholics help run it. Others definitely have a Protestant flavor. In my city, it is the Protestant flavor variety. Any Catholic kid that has gone comes back with questions about the Catholic faith due to information received either from the leaders in the group, or the kids asking questions of the Catholic kids. I would not send my Catholic kid to our young life group. Other groups, can be radically different. You have to check out each individual group. I always understand non-denominational to mean non-denom Protestant even though they call themselves nondenominational Christians. But then, some of the people who run non-denom groups don’t even consider Catholics to be Christians. For the most part, I think young life is a good program. But I would check out and talk to each and every one of the people involved in the group before allowing my child to go. Kind of a what do you think of Catholics pre-test if you will. They call themselves non-denom Christians so Catholics should be able to send their kids as Catholics are Christians.

Hope this helps. BTW, I know there are other people who are involved in young life here. There was a web site posted about them. Anyone know where that was?

i believe that any religious activity run on school property must be run by the students. this does not preclude the students bringing in guest speakers or having a teacher sponsor, but the group must be student led. young life (unless the young life director is breaking radically with the tradition and present day mindset of young life) does not meet on school grounds for any religious purpose. this does not mean that religious conversations don’t take place on school grounds, but they are not organized there. FCA, on the other hand, typically meets on school grounds but it is student led (with a teacher sponsor and usually a “guest” speaker, normally an FCA staff). young life leaders will meet students at the school, but only when the school is open to the public (i.e. games, plays, after school, etc.) and there is never anything organized on the school grounds. young life meetings typically take place in students’ homes. i know you know these things lachiara, but i write them for the others who will read this post. BTW, i tried to respond to your private message but it said your message box is full. also, secondary does include middle schools (and can include elementary in some districts).

–Does anyone have experience with groups like Young Life having access to the public schools (during the school day, before or after school)? If so, what is Young Life allowed to do?

young life, by law, is allowed at any public event (just as any other organization is). before and after school is usually a toss up. if the leaders have a specific reason for being there (i personally coach at the high school) like coaching, or meeting a specific student they are allowed there. but young life doesn’t throw these in the face of the administration. i have known of leaders being asked to leave the school grounds (because some one didn’t know who they were) and the leaders have always complied. they would then go to the many adults in the community and try to make contact with some one in the administration to explain the purpose of them being there. after that is done, there is usually no problem. (i personally have never experienced this as i have always had people in the administration who were very supportive of what we do).

Bengal Fan: So what is FCA–Fellowship of Christian Athletes? Also, are you familiar with Youth for Christ (the Protestant, rather than Catholic version)? How does Youth for Christ differ from or is similar to Young Life?

It strikes me that Young Life purposely uses the term “non-denominational Christian” rather than “non-denominational Protestant Christian” in order to draw in Catholics. Otherwise, why wouldn’t they use the term “non-denominational Protestant Christian”? Other techniques that Young Life uses is to have Catholic adults either as staff or as parent advisors. But my parish priest notes that all that makes no difference if Young Life’s Statement of Faith is Protestant and their is no Catholic leadership running the program (and of course, the Young Life youth minister is always Protestant). The priest’s take is that Young Life is Protestant and absolutely not “ecumenical” or “interdenominational”.

And finally, I wonder how you would respond to the fact that Young Life, misrepresenting itself as “non-denominational Christian” (rather than Protestant), is drawing the Catholic youth of our parish AWAY from the Catholic teen youth group. You say that Young Life reaches out to the “unchurched” and encourages kids to go to their own churches. So don’t you think that Young Life is wrong to be encouraging Catholic kids (who have had their sacraments, including Confirmation) to come to Young Life rather than the Catholic youth mnistry?

[quote=La Chiara]Bengal Fan: So what is FCA–Fellowship of Christian Athletes? Also, are you familiar with Youth for Christ (the Protestant, rather than Catholic version)? How does Youth for Christ differ from or is similar to Young Life?
[/quote]

yes, fellowship of christian athletes. i am familiar with youth for christ. it differs in style from young life and definitely deals with more doctrinal issues than young life does. student venture is campus crusades high school ministry and differs in style and program from young life (these two, yfc and student venture, are normally more aggressive than young life but are also much smaller).

[quote=La Chiara]It strikes me that Young Life purposely uses the term “non-denominational Christian” rather than “non-denominational Protestant Christian” in order to draw in Catholics.
[/quote]

the purpose isn’t to “draw in catholics” but it is truly what young life is (or strives to be, and we prefer the term interdenominational as we are supported by people from every denomination and we do have many catholic staff including on local levels, and there is soon to be another :slight_smile: )

[quote=La Chiara]Other techniques that Young Life uses is to have Catholic adults either as staff or as parent advisors. But my parish priest notes that all that makes no difference if Young Life’s Statement of Faith is Protestant and their is no Catholic leadership running the program (and of course, the Young Life youth minister is always Protestant).
[/quote]

there are catholics in leadership. they are anywhere from team leaders to area directors (me) to regional directors and there was even a divisional vice-president (i think). the statement of faith can be accepted by catholics because it is very general. if one is looking to nit-pick (not saying you are) both protestants and catholics could have a problem with the statement. the part about scripture can be read as prima scriptura not sola scriptura. there were catholics on the board who helped shape the statement.

[quote=La Chiara]And finally, I wonder how you would respond to the fact that Young Life, misrepresenting itself as “non-denominational Christian” (rather than Protestant), is drawing the Catholic youth of our parish AWAY from the Catholic teen youth group. You say that Young Life reaches out to the “unchurched” and encourages kids to go to their own churches. So don’t you think that Young Life is wrong to be encouraging Catholic kids (who have had their sacraments, including Confirmation) to come to Young Life rather than the Catholic youth mnistry?
[/quote]

first, i don’t believe it is mis-representing itself as non-denominational, it isn’t affiliated with a denomination, we are not a church, no one is protesting anything on an organizational level (there are many protestants working with young life who would disagree with the catholic church but, as far as i know, there are no jack chick types and i know they would be asked to step down if it was found out they were promoting such nonsense). i think it is wrong to encourage catholic kids to go to another church. the staff person should know as much as possible about catholic teachings so they can help the catholic kids know their faith more. i also think they should be encouraging them to go the the catholic youth group (i did this even as a protestant), but why can’t they go to both. the kids might hear things at young life which they might learn or, at the least, which might encourage them to ask their parents about. i know of a catholic kid who is very involved with young life (parish has no youth program). he and his parents talk about the lesson at young life and try to apply it to their catholicism. bottom line is, if a young life staff or volunteer is targeting catholic kids to try to get them out of the church, they are dead WRONG (see, i capitalize sometimes). if they are encouraging catholic (or any other denomination) kids to go to a different church than their parents, they are dead WRONG. but if they are trying to spur on conversations about Christ and to reveal the things that Jesus claimed about Himself (i.e. His divinity, no one comes to the Father except through Him, etc.) and help kids to make a decision based on these claims in their own lives about Christ, they are dead RIGHT. that is the goal of the organization, and should be the goal of every staff and volunteer. if your staff or volunteers are doing something different, they are acting outside of young life. call the regional office and voice your concerns, or call the national office (719-381-1800). i would be happy to hear specific charges from you, and if i agreed, support you. it just seems that you have had a bad experience, but please don’t shun the whole organization because of a few bad apples, remember we are all sinners.

LaChiara,

i really do appreciate your position and can understand your concerns (which, i will admit, could be very legitimate as i don’t know where you are from and who your area director is). but i would ask that you refrain from attacking (which these recent posts have not been, i have really felt a sense of questioning in these which i appreciate) young life and i would love to help get to the bottom of this. if there is an area director deliberately targeting catholic kids to attract them away from the catholic church, i want and need to know so i can deal with it also. i will try to get the number for Roger Wilkins who is former young life staff and a very strong catholic. his daughter i think is on staff now and he lives in new york (i think). he was fairly high up in young life for a while and he would be very supportive of your position also.

Bengal Fan–You say the purpose is not to draw in Catholics. But that is the effect, intentional or not. Apparently, Young Life is not concerned with that fact that “churched” Catholic youth are being drawn in and given Protestant beliefs rather than Catholic. Do you discuss the differences between Catholic and Protestant beliefs in your Young Life programs? Are you trying to educate all Christians about the Catholic faith as well as about the Bible? If not, then that is what makes Young Life Protestant and not non-denominational…

I am deeply offended by Young Life’s efforts to put Catholic adults in “leadership positions”. I have never seen any Catholics in “leadership positions” rather Catholics are used for window dressing–put in “advisory positions” such as being in charge of snacks but with no role in the programs or discussion.

You say that a Catholic could accept the Statement of Faith because it is so general. Show me one Catholic priest who is in any Young Life leadership position. Show me one Catholic priest who can take Young Life’s Statement of Faith and would encourage a Catholic to do so. Just because you say so and just because Young LIfe says so, doesn’t make it Catholic or interdenominational. It is not interdenominational. IT IS PROTESTANT! And all the protests to the contrary, don’t change that fact.

let’s see if that worked

If Catholics kids are attracted to young life away from Catholic groups, the fault lies not with young life, but the catholic youth groups. Unless someone is completely stupid and cares nothing about their child and what they are learning in the religious forefront, a parent would already know upfront what kind of Christian group their child is getting involved in. If they don’t, shame on the parent. Even my Young life group that I would not encourage my child to go to due to its overtly baptist flavor, I know what my child would be learning. Why? Because I cared enough to look into the program and find out. Why are you attacking Young Life for reaching out to kids and getting them on fire for God? I am glad that Young life is reaching out to Catholics for leadership. I wish my area would! As it stands now, the Young Life director USED to be Catholic. If your area has a group that is encouraging Catholic youth to not attend Mass, Why are you not confronting the parents who let them go? Or why aren’t you volunteering to help the group to make sure that those who would encourage such things stop?

As to the equal rights act, I think I confused that with another law. There is one where a child can be taken out of school during school hours for a set period of time every month for religious ed at least in my state. These programs are run by adult with parental permission needed for the child to participate. This is not an after school program. Sorry for the confusion on my part.:o

[quote=MariaG]If Catholics kids are attracted to young life away from Catholic groups, the fault lies not with young life, but the catholic youth groups. Unless someone is completely stupid and cares nothing about their child and what they are learning in the religious forefront, a parent would already know upfront what kind of Christian group their child is getting involved in. If they don’t, shame on the parent. Even my Young life group that I would not encourage my child to go to due to its overtly baptist flavor, I know what my child would be learning. Why? Because I cared enough to look into the program and find out. Why are you attacking Young Life for reaching out to kids and getting them on fire for God? I am glad that Young life is reaching out to Catholics for leadership. I wish my area would! As it stands now, the Young Life director USED to be Catholic. If your area has a group that is encouraging Catholic youth to not attend Mass, Why are you not confronting the parents who let them go? Or why aren’t you volunteering to help the group to make sure that those who would encourage such things stop?
[/quote]

Maria–The reason I am emphatic about Young Life is because I did do the research and absolutely would not allow my child be involved in Young Life. I have also talked to other Catholic parents and they do not see that Young Life is Protestant. I am not attacking, I am defending and educating.

And furthermore, I AM volunteering to help the Catholic youth group defend against Young Life’s tactics. And I am also pursuing legal and administrative actions against Young Life. So, no, I am not just spouting off about Young Life on this forum. I am very much taking action. But I can only influence my local community. Raising my concerns about Young Life on this forum is a way of letting other Catholics know about what I have found out through extensive research.

Furthermore, Young Life does not put Catholics in true leadership positions. Young Life only puts Catholics in window dressing postions. And Young Life does not work with Catholic priests or with Catholic Religious Educators BECAUSE no Catholic priest or Catholic Religious Educator would do such a thing because it would lend Catholic legitimacy and approval to a PROTESTANT Evangelical youth ministry. Young Life’s core beliefs are not in keeping with Catholic Christianity.

i would think area director (who is in charge of all young life ministry in his/her area which usually spans a few counties) or regional director (who normally has between 10-30 area directors under them) would be positions of leadership. i would love to know where in new york you are lachiara as i would be happy to contact the area director or regional director for you and i could even talk with the divisional vice-president (who is also my divisional vice-president) and get to the bottom of what is happening there. if there is a staff or volunteer deliberately taking kids from one church to another (assuming both are christian, i am not talking about a true convert from say, jw’s, mormons, muslim, jewish, atheist, etc.) then that staff or volunteer are acting directly against what they have been instructed to do through young life and it affects everybody including me. i know many staff in new york and some catholic who would be happy to help you out also.

[quote=bengal_fan] i would love to know where in new york you are lachiara as i would be happy to contact the area director or regional director for you and i could even talk with the divisional vice-president (who is also my divisional vice-president) and get to the bottom of what is happening there. if there is a staff or volunteer deliberately taking kids from one church to another (assuming both are christian, i am not talking about a true convert from say, jw’s, mormons, muslim, jewish, atheist, etc.) then that staff or volunteer are acting directly against what they have been instructed to do through young life and it affects everybody including me. i know many staff in new york and some catholic who would be happy to help you out also.
[/quote]

Thanks for the offer. For now, I am already doing what I can to rectify the situation. I will contact you if my efforts fail and I need to take you up on that offer. If you would like, you may PM me the names of your contacts in NY. Thanks again.

La Chiara,
I can understand your frustration. As a parent who is intensely involved in what I choose to allow my child to be involved in, it is disheartening to see parents who can’t see the harm with programs that discourage attendence to Mass (or anything Catholic for that matter!).

Unfortunately, in my experience, these parents have already decided that they don’t care what “denomination” their child is, as long as they are good Christians. They are nominally Catholic themselves. Is it any surprise that their child would reject a lukewarm love, for those who are on fire for the Lord?

I hope you can get things changed in your area. I actually need to look back into the one in my area. It has been a few years since the new person was hired. And as he “used” to be Catholic, I did not feel it to be a healthy place the spiritual growth of a Catholic youth since the only catholics I have met that used to be Catholic don’t even think Catholics are Christians. Who knows, maybe the Young Life director is ready to come home now!

Your sister in Christ,
Maria

[quote=MariaG]La Chiara,
I can understand your frustration. As a parent who is intensely involved in what I choose to allow my child to be involved in, it is disheartening to see parents who can’t see the harm with programs that discourage attendence to Mass (or anything Catholic for that matter!).

Unfortunately, in my experience, these parents have already decided that they don’t care what “denomination” their child is, as long as they are good Christians. They are nominally Catholic themselves. Is it any surprise that their child would reject a lukewarm love, for those who are on fire for the Lord?

I hope you can get things changed in your area. I actually need to look back into the one in my area. It has been a few years since the new person was hired. And as he “used” to be Catholic, I did not feel it to be a healthy place the spiritual growth of a Catholic youth since the only catholics I have met that used to be Catholic don’t even think Catholics are Christians. Who knows, maybe the Young Life director is ready to come home now!

Your sister in Christ,
Maria
[/quote]

Maria–
Thanks for your encouraging words. I wish it were so simple–that the Catholic parents in my area who let their kids go to Young Life are lukewarm on their Catholic faith. Instead, several of them are Catechists for Religious Education in our parish! That exemplifies to me the inroads that Young Life has made in my area!

BTW, my sparring buddy on this issue (Bengal Fan), works for Young Life as an Area Director, used to be Catholic, and has said that he may be on the road home to Rome (may return to the Catholic Church). He is in Pennsylvania. Could he be the Young Life Area Director in your area? (If you are in Penn.) That would be a strange twist! Though to his credit as a former Catholic, he doesn’t state (on the forums anyway) that Catholics are not even Christians.

God bless and thanks again for the encouragement. It is not easy to get change on an issue when I am going it alone.

I wish Bengal Fan were the director, then I would have no worries sending my kids! No, I am in Oregon. I am sorry to hear that the parents who are doing this are so blind to the negative spiritual impact that this group is having on their child. I will pray that this Young Life group will stop “stealing sheep” and just strengthen youth in their walk with Christ, Catholic or Protestant.

God Bless,
Maria

Hi,

I may bring a unique perspective to this discussion as one who was a Catholic High Schooler involved with Young Life.

If anything, Young Life made me a more devout Catholic. I went to camp and came back fired up for my Church. I volunteered to make CYO/CCD more exciting for my High School peers by helping the teacher set up events and even playing worship songs on my guitar with them.

I was about as involved in Young Life as a High Schooler and can say that the leaders in my area definitely respected our churches. They all encouraged us to go to our own church, and only if we didn’t have one would they recommend one. My YL Campaigner (Bible Study) leader actually met with my priest to ask permission to have me in the Bible Study and to explain what we were going to cover. My priest consented as long as my leader didn’t attack Catholicism. I can tell you honestly that not once did any attack on Catholic beliefs come up.

I went to college and became a Young Life leader, and also a staunch Catholic.

But it was my studying of the Bible that led me to part ways with Rome. Young Life, if anything, made me a more zealous Catholic.

LaChiara, if you are pursuing lawsuits against Young Life you’re going to come off like a lunatic. Use your time elsewhere, Young Life isn’t the enemy. It’s the youth groups in your church. I applaud you for thoroughly researching the groups your children are involved in…more parents need to take a lesson from you. But Young Life can do way more good than harm.

Oh, and there were a few of my friends who were forbidden from Young Life because their parents called it a “cult” or something…they were instead forced to attend the youth group at their parent’s church that didn’t really care about catechesis or reaching the kids… These guys aren’t walking with the Lord today. The ones who came to Young Life–we still meet together regularly and nearly all of us are members of solid churches.

God bless,
c0ach

i liked every part of your post except this. are you saying you are no longer catholic because of studying the bible? or because of some one else’s interpretation of the bible? in my experience, it is the study of the bible which has brought me back to the catholic church (though not officially yet as i have a promise to my wife and feel i am honoring God by honoring that promise, i do attend daily mass but have not taken communion yet which i will do this time next year, anyway…i digress). keep studying and asking questions but don’t be afraid to study people you might not agree with and always keep yourself open to God showing you where you might be wrong (too often we are only open to Him showing us where others are wrong).

[quote=c0achmcguirk]Hi,

I may bring a unique perspective to this discussion as one who was a Catholic High Schooler involved with Young Life.

If anything, Young Life made me a more devout Catholic. I went to camp and came back fired up for my Church. I volunteered to make CYO/CCD more exciting for my High School peers by helping the teacher set up events and even playing worship songs on my guitar with them.

I was about as involved in Young Life as a High Schooler and can say that the leaders in my area definitely respected our churches. They all encouraged us to go to our own church, and only if we didn’t have one would they recommend one. My YL Campaigner (Bible Study) leader actually met with my priest to ask permission to have me in the Bible Study and to explain what we were going to cover. My priest consented as long as my leader didn’t attack Catholicism. I can tell you honestly that not once did any attack on Catholic beliefs come up.

I went to college and became a Young Life leader, and also a staunch Catholic.

But it was my studying of the Bible that led me to part ways with Rome. Young Life, if anything, made me a more zealous Catholic.

LaChiara, if you are pursuing lawsuits against Young Life you’re going to come off like a lunatic. Use your time elsewhere, Young Life isn’t the enemy. It’s the youth groups in your church. I applaud you for thoroughly researching the groups your children are involved in…more parents need to take a lesson from you. But Young Life can do way more good than harm.

Oh, and there were a few of my friends who were forbidden from Young Life because their parents called it a “cult” or something…they were instead forced to attend the youth group at their parent’s church that didn’t really care about catechesis or reaching the kids… These guys aren’t walking with the Lord today. The ones who came to Young Life–we still meet together regularly and nearly all of us are members of solid churches.

God bless,
c0ach
[/quote]

So your are telling me that Young Life made you a better Catholic but studying the Bible convinced you to leave the Catholic Church? Hmmm, why do I feel like you still work for Young Life and have an axe to grind.

But in any case, if I were worried about looking like a lunatic, I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing. But I don’t care about looking like a lunatic. What I care about is what is right for me, my family, my community, and the Catholic Church. Young Life is not Catholic, it is Protestant. If there were facts, they would confirm that while Young Life may make some stronger in their Catholic faith, many more Catholic youth who were involved in Young Life LEFT the Catholic Church.

I very much disagree with you that the Catholic youth group is the enemy. You are a former Catholic who was (and still is?) involved in Young Life and you suggest that I should leave Young Life alone and view my parish’s Catholic youth group as the enemy. You are kidding, right?

Yes, “Young Life can do more good than harm” but it will do more good for Protestant beliefs, and do harm to our Catholic youth by luring them away.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.