Montezuma-Cortez Middle School’s Facebook page includes flyers and images you’d expect to see – reminders to order yearbooks, a summer basketball skills camp, teachers rolling burritos for students the morning of standardized testing. The components of a school’s community.
But one in particular caught our attention. On April 19 and 20, a flyer on the school’s Facebook page advertised an evening event with The Seven Project, sponsored by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, with “free food, fun, giveaways & faith.” According to its website, The Seven Project “presents school assemblies that deal with real life and character issues” with videos, pumping music and “strong calls to action.”
No problem. The school is allowed to share or lease its facility for reasonable uses after the school day. According to the district’s facility use form, FCA rented the middle-school gym from 5 to 8 p.m. on April 20, along with an outdoor area for $150 plus a $250 damage deposit. The group requested field lights on.
Later, we were concerned to learn that promoters with The Seven Project also held an assembly at M-CMS the day of the event during instructional time, then invited students to the “after-party.” At the very least, the school must let parents know – loud and clear – The Seven Project group wanted to promote its event to their children during the school day. Parents could then decide what’s best and appropriate for their families. M-CMS Principal Drew Pearson said the school “never communicates daily assemblies outside of typical announcements.” In this case – and future ones – we feel it must.
The Seven Project should have truly and completely said what it was about. It’s a veiled Christian group with a comprehensive outreach strategy to reach public school students, and train leaders in effective evangelism and discipleship. Curiously, the organization doesn’t mention Jesus Christ or his teachings on its website. The place where parents would look in making a decision on whether to allow their schoolchildren to attend.
In the recording of the assembly, again, no mention of Christ. Loud and lively, the assembly had a bouncy DJ, club-style lighting and even a teacher dance contest. Much motivational speak about being resilient, how anything in one’s life is possible and each of us can become champions. Other emphases included the importance of being “teachable,” “coachable” and “a hard worker.” “Taking action” and being open to being “stirred on the inside.”
Standing alone, the messages are positive. But in this time of much conversation about parental rights, we all deserve to know who exactly is whom. Especially when they want time with our children.
The assembly had a pep-rally vibe. It would be nice if the school could create a high-energy, spirited experience around Panther Pride on its own. No outside interest or influence needed.
Both FCA and LGBTQ+ students lost meeting spaces during lunchtime after the district determined this was instructional time. Groups had to then meet off-campus. Yet – however indirectly – the FCA made its way into the middle school on the afternoon of April 20, with this assembly.
Rainbow Club kids haven’t had this fortune. A Queer Ball for middle- and high-school students in February was kept under wraps for students’ safety. Organizers planned the event behind closed doors, with Montezuma Youth Pride coordinating rides and discreetly distributing parental permission slips. Kids posed in a photo booth and played video games, while chaperones kept the pizza and juice coming. With 35 kids, the dance floor was lively much of the time.
Thirty-five students is a good turnout and a sizable number for a group that would like to – safely – hang out together.
Janet Hough of Cortez said: “Some adults in our community are only concerned with saving our children’s souls and not the whole child. Their actions show their true intentions: to usurp parents’ rights, using public school spaces to convert their children to Christianity.”
Hough said a few years ago, Pearson dress-coded her child for wearing a shirt that said, “Make America Gay Again.” Pearson said he did not remember this incident. But this shirt would likely fall into a category of clothing with sexual connotations, as did the shirts, “I (heart) Hot Moms” and “Virginity Rocks.”
The day after The Seven Project event, the FCA posted on its Facebook page: “Wonderful time of fellowship and reaching Gen Z last night with the 7 Project! Door prizes were awesome with one student winning a brand new bike, testimonies from students and a powerful message. Approximately 40 students made life decisions. Thank you Lord for the privilege of touching students’ lives with HOPE ♥️.”
So there it is, after the fact. Nothing wishy-washy or left to the imagination. Better, though, for the FCA and The Seven Project to be upfront with its intentions. Parents deserve to know.