Eric Buehrer’s night got off to a rocky start Feb. 8. That’s when he began his presentation, “Keeping Faith in Public Schools,” to about 100 people in the Flathead High School auditorium by reading quotes from Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams referencing the Christian God.
Between quotes, Rob Yacavone, a Kalispell physician, stood up in the audience and stated, “Thomas Jefferson said we should have freedom from religion,” and, “What [the founding fathers] were doing was running away from people like you.”
At that point, several men began walking toward the back of the auditorium, where Yacavone stood, and another man berated him for interrupting. Yacavone sat down and agreed to hold his questions until the end of the presentation.
Buehrer is president and founder of California-based nonprofit Gateways to Better Education, whose mission, as conveyed through Buehrer’s presentation, is to educate parents and teachers about the religious rights of children, and opportunities to teach kids about religion in the context of history and culture.
But Buehrer made clear throughout the presentation, which he ended with a Christian prayer, that the only religion he’s interested in is Christianity.
This wasn’t lost on the audience, which punctuated his speech with amens and hallelujahs.
Buehrer used anecdotal evidence to argue that children’s freedom to display Christian beliefs in public schools is under attack, and that teachers are scared to teach anything about Christianity, even in the study of American culture.
To help parents and teachers battle the specter of anti-Christianity, Buehrer offered a host of instructional books for sale. He also helps organize “Campus Partners,” networks that attempt to influence local school systems.
After the meeting, Yacavone, surrounded by about 25 men, engaged in an intense back and forth with Buehrer on the separation of church and state.
Yacavone says he has filed complaints about the public schools’ hosting of the presentation with the local school board, and Montana’s Office of Public instruction, and has contacted the American Civil Liberties Union.
Meanwhile, the Flathead’s first Campus Partners meeting is scheduled for Feb. 8, at the Cayuse Prairie School.