Parents' outrage as extremist US religious cult hand out creationist books and preach to kids at Scottish school

The US Church of Christ which rubbishes evolution was allowed to minister pupils at East Kilbride's Kirktonholme Primary.

The Daily Record & Sunday Mail, UK/September 6, 2013

By Mark McGivern

Horrified parents fear an extremist religious sect has been trying to brainwash their kids after it was allowed to infiltrate a Scots primary school.

A head teacher invited the US Church of Christ, which rubbishes evolution and counts homosexuality as a sin, to minister to pupils.

The “missionaries” at the school include face-painted Jared Blakeman, pictured in a T-shirt with the slogan AIM – short for “Adventures in Mission”.

Many parents at 400-pupil Kirktonholme Primary in East Kilbride only realised their children were being exposed to the evangelical group’s agenda when kids brought home alarming books they had been handed at assembly.

The creationist books, defended by head teacher Sandra MacKenzie, denounce the theory of evolution and warn pupils that, without God, they risk being murdered in a harmful, disgusting world.

Parents have called for emergency talks with education chiefs, where they will demand the sect’s removal from the school.

One angry dad, Paul Sanderson, 33, told how his five-year-old son burst into tears when he took the books away.

He said: “I think it’s fair to call it brainwashing because when I took them from him he started crying.

“When I asked why he was crying, he said the man who gave them to him told him they were really, really important.”

The book row, which broke out this week, has brought the group’s presence at Kirktonholme into focus.

But the Record can reveal sinister undertones to their eight-year involvement at the school.

The Church of Christ have targeted Kirktonholme as a “mission” and have several members helping with classes and giving lessons in religion.

Church members like Blakeman – photographed as a scary Pirates of the Caribbean character – were allowed in to work as classroom assistants and help with homework and in other mainstream roles.

Parents were also furious to learn that cash raised by children which they thought was intended for school funds had been given to the sect to build a church nearby.

One of the church members, Evelyn Galvan Graciano, 22, from Mexico, describes Scotland as “a place full of darkness and emptiness that is in a big need of Jesus”.

And she has told pals she uses classes to get into the heads of Kirktonholme pupils. She said: “They all are very receptive and willing to listen and learn.

“Hopefully at least we can let the kids know who Jesus is. Maybe someday that seed we’ve planted can be grown by God.”

The Church of Christ, based in the US Deep South, believe the Bible predicts the future and is 100 per cent accurate. They have called Scotland “A Field Ripe for Harvest”.

Church leaders told their US flock in a video blog about their “work” at the school, and claimed that, out of a population of 5.1million, Scotland has only 700 practising Christians.

At an assembly at Kirktonholme on Monday, the sect handed each pupil two books, one called Exposing the Myth of Evolution and another titled How Do You Know God is Real?

Paul told the Record he could not believe their content.

He said: “They looked fair enough at a glance and one had a dinosaur on the front, but it didn’t take long to see they were spouting crazy, right-wing nonsense about how evolution never happened – real flat earth stuff.

“The second book talked in such threatening terms about other religions, and compared those who didn’t believe in God to those who carry out abortions.

“It was really creepy and alarming. I can’t believe these people could be allowed to infiltrate a school to this extent.”

Paul said he confronted MacKenzie about the books, but she stood her ground. He is refusing to let his children to be involved in any religious observance at the school until the issue is dealt with.

Other parents have made official complaints to South Lanarkshire Council about the books, and some have threatened to withdraw their children in protest.

One told us: “I could not believe a head teacher could sanction this crazy stuff. It’s sinister as hell. I don’t want any of these people anywhere near my children.”

In a letter to parents, MacKenzie defended the decision to distribute the books.

She admitted the Church of Christ was part of the school chaplaincy team. And she said of the books: “Whilst I appreciate that not every family in our school are practising Christians, I was only too happy to accept this generous gift on your behalf.

“I hope you will all accept it in the spirit with which it was offered.”

Both books were written by American Kyle Butt, whose other works include a book called Homosexuality – Sin, or Cultural Bad Habit?

His books are printed by Alabama-based Apologetics Press, who are closely affiliated to the Church of Christ.

MacKenzie invited the West Mains Church of Christ into Kirktonholme eight years ago. After initial contact by church minister Alex Gear, church leaders in Rogersville, Alabama, were told East Kilbride could provide fertile ground for the church’s doctrine.

Gear wrote to HQ last year to tell how the “outreach” was progressing. He said staff had “gone the extra mile” to make the group welcome – and told how pupils had raised money to build their church.

He wrote: “Many of you will know Kirktonholme Primary have been raising funds to help with our church building fund.

“Yesterday, just before the worship service finished, I was presented with a check for $350 from the children. They had been collecting change and saving it up for us.”

Gear also told in the letter how Kyle Butt had given him “absolutely fantastic material on creation and exposing the myth of evolution” to take back to Scotland

Gear confirmed to the Record: “Our mission team has been helping out in the school. Whatever the staff can use them for, they have done, on an outreach basis.

“We believe the teachings of the Bible, which tell us evolution is a myth. The Bible also states homosexuality is a sin.”

He denied trying to indoctrinate children, saying: “We have not been trying to make people change their minds about anything. We believe information in the books is accurate and not otherwise in the public domain.”

South Lanarkshire Council say they were only told on Monday about the religious leanings of volunteers at the school.

A spokesman said: “We have received complaints from a small number of parents at Kirktonholme Primary after books were given out at assembly.

"We have investigated, and the head teacher has been advised that the material should not have been distributed through the school.

“The books were gifted by West Mains Church of Christ, who spoke at an assembly and are part of the school chaplaincy team.

“The membership of the chaplaincy team is being considered, as is the role church groups play in school life.

“All our schools acknowledge the Christian tradition and encourage young people to engage with and explore a wide range of beliefs and religions.

“However, the theories explored in these books do not feature in mainstream teaching. It was not appropriate for them to be given to pupils in this way. Guidance on the distribution of commercial materials will be reviewed.”

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