Private property, religion, and (good) neighbors–next to my kid’s school


Ok, lawyers among us, I am asking for your advice:

Across the street from my daughter’s high school, a woman who lives in my neighborhood bought a second house.  Every Thursday, she buys food and serves free lunch to any junior or senior high school student who wants to come over to this house, whether or not they have permission to go to this house and eat this free lunch.  (These students presumably have permission to leave the building at lunch.)  The purpose of these free lunches is to–wait for it–proselytize for her church.  I don’t know much about what church she belongs to, but I think it may be the Calvary Baptist Church just across the road from our subdivision.  I don’t know this woman personally, so I can’t vouch for the degree of zaniness in operation here.  Let’s assume it’s past 10 on the crazy-meter scale.

The principal of the school just wrote the parents a note explaining that the school is aware of this free lunch and unable to stop it from taking place; instead, he is alerting parents to the option of instructing their children not to go if they do not want them to.  He notes that the County Health Board has not apparently approved the group as a food vendor (even free soup kitchens have to be publicly approved).

My question is, is there some way to argue that the church nut is taking advantage of the presence of the school (which, as a public entitity, is an extension of the state) to expand her church business?  If she was handing out condoms or giving free showings of pornography, presumably, we could demand that the police issue a cease-and-desist order.  But here we are in a grey area because she is not doing anything unsafe, other than giving out food that hasn’t been specifically approved for this purpose, and other than not obtaining permission from parents to gather students at this private home.

Can anyone help me put together a good legal argument against what this woman is doing? (Sorry, I can’t find a picture of the house, but it sits south of the school, on the other side of the football field from the building.)

And no, my daughter doesn’t go to the Thursday lunches.  She has much too much sense for that.


9 Responses to Private property, religion, and (good) neighbors–next to my kid’s school

  1. lbsmom says:

    Vicky, is there no doubt of her intention? Has it been verified? Just curious since I like fact checking. Assuming it’s true, I’m surprised an official of some sort hasn’t gotten the Dept. of Health into the mix. I’ve tried to donate leftover food (from the same day & kept at correct temperatures) from various church events to homeless shelters only to be turned away because of health laws.

    In this tough economy, maybe we should collaborate & set up a taco truck (popular here in California) in front of the school! I’m guessing the church lady serves boring stuff like meat loaf & white bread.

  2. vickywoeste says:

    Not much doubt, Judy. I know who this woman is (but I am not friends with her and don’t think she’d know who I am if we met on the street) and I heard about this little schtick last year (when she was apparently enticing the senior boys to the house).

    The more I think about it, the more I am convinced it is not on the level to approach other people’s children without their knowledge, entice them with food, and try to sucker them into your church. She’s using the methodology of a pedophile. And if she includes both boys and girls, she could be liable for who knows what could happen at that house at lunchtime. Maybe that’s the legal angle the church would care about–even if she doesn’t.

    Last year, I heard she was buying Subway sandwiches and handing them out. Still, yuck.

  3. laurabethnielsen says:

    This is like a really awesome law school exam question!!

    So first of all, if the students ARE allowed off campus, then they are being allowed to make their own decisions. So, I can’t think of any law she is breaking. The pedophile example is interesting, but of course the difference is that the pedophile then sexually assaults or rapes the kid. I don’t think feeding hungry kids is a crime.

    If a particular parent told her not to feed their child, that might be different. the real answer is not to allow the kids off campus. I was never up to any good when I left campus for lunch and neither was Eric.

  4. lbsmom says:

    As a parent & member of the PTO, I was always opposed to an open campus at the high school. I was still young enough to remember how fun that would have been to me as a teenager!

  5. jeffaregularworkinglawyer says:

    Step back, ma’am — I’m a lawyer.

    I’m pretty sure you couldn’t keep her from handing out condoms. Could doing so violate the Indiana contributing to the delinquency of a minor statute? My quick read is no. Can you keep her from passing out home cooked meals while preaching? Probably — not because of the preaching, but because of the health concerns. Call the Health Department. How about handing out sandwiches from Subway? Again, maybe you could ask the Health Department to determine if she has adequate refrigeration, etc — but I doubt that you’ll get much of a response. Try, and let us know.

  6. vickywoeste says:

    The school did call the health department on her, but action is pending; hence the email to parents in the meantime.

    I maintain–and my husband has finally capitulated that I am right–that no legitimate religion uses the methodology of pedophiles to recruit minors without their parents’ knowledge. Since my daughter has not ventured near the place, I don’t really see that I have grounds to stage a public protest. But I still think the woman’s a kook.

    And thank goodness for real lawyers to assure me of what the rules are . . .

  7. lbsmom says:

    Wait, wait, Vicky. Just like anything else, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, as we said in the south. Do you mean that offering something appealing to minors for the purpose of either molesting or evangelizing them should be treated the same?

    Your words are strong. This woman might be a member of a “legitimate” religion, so should it be judged harshly because of this parishioner? Since you’re not sure of her motives & what’s going on, why don’t you find out? Even though your daughter doesn’t go there for lunch, you could still go check it out. Most people who picket & protest at Planned Parenthood clinics don’t actually have a child using their services. Such knowledge could benefit the greater good.

  8. laurabethnielsen says:

    As I said before — the difference in the pedophile example is the actual CHILD MOLESTING! It is different. You have simply browbeaten Keith into submission. haha.

    Seriously, if the campus is open, she can do this unless she is breeaking a law. SO far, there is no law you have told us that she is breaking (perhaps a health code violation). But I went to people’s houses for lunch and no one called the health department on them. Indeed the health department might say they do not have jurisdiction — I mean crap what if they came to my house when I had friends over to measure the temperature of my turkey? they can’t do that unless you are selling or giving the food away to an organization. Can they come in our homes?

    But you could protest — that’s your right too.

  9. vickywoeste says:

    Look. Nothing brings out intolerance in me more than other people’s religious intolerance.

    And I do think the analogy works *as analogy*. I’m not accusing her of pedophilia; I’m saying she is using the methodology of pedophilias to recruit for her church. And I think that’s what she is doing. Last year, she was inviting only boys to the house. How’s that look to ya?

    That said, I realize I’m pretty much powerless here. The school is powerless (unless it cancels open lunch, which it’s too gutless to do). As I joked on my Facebook page, all we have left is public shaming–or, the more dignified equivalent, just going to one of these Thursday lunches. I’ll pass on the 2dhand Subway sandwiches, though. Ugh.

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