Nothing wrong with church "outreach" programs, but this goes too far:
Representatives of a local Christian church tried to lure a seventh-grader at Russell Middle School into a church van last week, school district officials said.
As a result, the principal sent students home with a letter to parents asking that they instruct their children not to talk to strangers, and the district has beefed up security around the property at 3825 E. Montebello Drive.
The letter to parents did not identify the church, and the district — acting on the advice of its attorney — has declined to name it. But sources told The Gazette that it was Cornerstone Baptist Church, which is about 2.5 miles from the school and has gotten into trouble in the past for baptizing children without parents' permission.
Students at nearby Keller and Fremont elementary schools also have been approached by church members, and church proselytizing has been escalating in recent weeks at Russell. Still, officials were unprepared for what happened Thursday, district spokeswoman Elaine Naleski said Friday.
"We have never had a problem like this before," she said. "We are shocked by their actions."
Their website, if you're interested, in which they write:
We believe the church is a local, separated body of believers who are sent forth into the world to get people saved, baptized, and added to the church….
…whether they want it or not.
This isn't the first time this church has done this. From 1997:
A long-simmering civil lawsuit against the Cornerstone Baptist Church for its controversial practice of baptizing children–reportedly without their parents' permission–went to trial in Colorado District Court on June 1.
Nine children and their parents sued the church more than four years ago for unspecified monetary and punitive damages.
Dozens of children were reportedly tricked with promises of "the world's largest water fight" and fun at a church "carnival" but were subjected to sermons, told to remove their clothes and don church-issued robes, lined up and baptized instead.
The suit states that some of the children have suffered physical and emotional problems ranging from bedwetting to nightmares because of the incident. Also, parents say the permission slips they signed did not explicitly state that baptisms were planned.
Two children testified that when they tried to leave the baptismal line they were forced back into it.
"They said if we didn't, they'd sting us with bees and we'd go to hell," said one of the youngsters.
The 1997 abduction trial ended when the jury decided the church did not harm the children by baptizing them during carnivals but found the church deceived the kids by telling them they were going to the church for carnivals. The church was ordered to pay each of the eight plaintiffs $664.29 in damages for the concealment charge.
And from 2003:
A Colorado Springs church long criticized for baptizing children without their parents' permission faces a new complaint from the mother of an 8-year-old girl who said her daughter was ordered to disrobe for a baptism Sunday.
Officials at Cornerstone Baptist Church declined to comment.
Shelby Obermuller listened to her daughter talk about what fun she had at the church playing basketball and eating sweets.
What the little girl said next outraged Obermuller and led her to call police.
"She started talking about how they baptized her," Obermuller said. "She said they told her to take off all her clothes, even her underwear, and put on a white church robe. When she said she didn't want to do it, they told her she would be saved and be a better person."
Then, Obermuller said, they told her daughter to step in a small pool of water about chest deep. They put a tissue over her nose and dunked her head backward into the water.
Obermuller's daughter said she was one of a few children who had not been previously baptized whom church leaders ordered into the baptismal area.
"My daughter doesn't even know what it means to be baptized," Obermuller said. "I asked her what religion she is, and she said 'What's religion?' I had no problem with her going to church, but I never wanted to push anything like that on (my kids).
"I cannot believe they (the church) would do something like that, especially behind the parent's back and make the child think if they don't do it they're doing something wrong," Obermuller said.