UPDATE: On December 17, 2002, Rage Against Destruction announced that it would "discontinue all future programs and events."
The Christian evangelical church Joyce Meyer Ministries uses subterfuge and deception to get its youth ministry program into public schools across the United States. Rage Against Destruction, the traveling musical extravaganza that puts on
public school assemblies with a focus on anti-violence messages, is actually the "nationwide youth ministry" of the Missouri-based Joyce Meyer Ministries.
This year, the group has staged assemblies in public high schools in New York City and New Jersey, although several events were cancelled after education officials in both states warned their principals of the group's tactics. In addition, schools in St. Louis, Missouri, have canceled "Rage" assemblies. Although the in-schools assemblies carry an anti-violence theme, the group uses the assembles to invite students to an off-school event called "Firefest," an unabashed Christian evangelical festival with a high-pressure pitch aimed at vulnerable teens.
Joyce Meyer's Intentions: Stealth Evangelism
According to materials posted until recently on her ministry's Web site, Joyce Meyer created Rage Against Destruction to evangelize to students through public school assembly programs and the off-campus "crusade" she calls "Firefest," which the group promotes during its school visits and then holds off-campus.
In Meyer's own words, the youth ministry's "two-fold outreach includes a high school assembly program and a top-production youth crusade called Firefest. In the school assemblies, the Rage team members go into the schools of a particular city for a two-week period, bringing a professional band, giveaways, video presentation, and a motivational message of anti-violence and self-worth.
At the end of the two-week tour, the Firefest event is held. This free, off-campus Christian concert is a powerful evangelistic tool, offering the life-changing message of the Gospel. Thus far, Rage Against Destruction has reached over 100,000 students in over 100 schools in eleven cities around the country."
According to one eyewitness to a recent "Firefest" event, the Rage Against Destruction performers essentially said, "The truth is, we can't save your life if you are a victim of violence, but we can save your soul."
Disregard for Separation of Church and State
According to eyewitnesses, Meyer's Rage staff reportedly refrains from overt talk of their religious beliefs during the school assembly itself. However, the group does not disclose to schools that its purpose is to do outreach for the ministry, nor does it disclose that "Firefest," which is promoted throughout the school assembly, is an event designed to persuade students to adopt the group's religious beliefs.
Superintendents, teachers, parents and students are deceived; and routinely, by design, Meyer uses the public schools to promote events where proselytizing is the main objective. Meyer shows no regard for the separation of church and state embodied in the Constitution. Recently, she told an audience of believers that the notion of separating church and state, with such policies as disallowing prayer in public schools "is a deception from Satan."
Continuing the Deception
After ADL revealed the connection between Rage Against Destruction and Meyer's church, evidence of the program's purpose began vanishing from the Joyce Meyer Web site. In particular, the following passage was removed from the "youth outreach" portion of the Meyer Ministry site:
Our nationwide youth ministry is called Rage Against Destruction. Its two-fold outreach includes a high school assembly program and a top-production youth crusade called Firefest. In the school assemblies, the Rage team members go into the schools of a particular city for a two-week period, bringing a professional band, giveaways, video presentation, and a motivational message of anti-violence and self-worth. At the end of the two-week tour, the Firefest event is held. This free, off-campus Christian concert is a powerful evangelistic tool, offering the life-changing message of the Gospel. Thus far, Rage Against Destruction has reached over 100,000 students in over 100 schools in eleven cities around the country.
Deception of Schools, Students, Parents And Co-Sponsors
The in-school assemblies put on by Rage Against Destruction are dynamic performances with concert-quality, cutting-edge lighting and music and lavish giveaways to select students, including Sony PlayStations and New Balance athletic shoes.
The students tend to love the performance. But neither they, nor their teachers, principals or parents are told about the true affiliation and purpose of the Rage Against Destruction team. Nor, apparently, does the group disclose its purpose and identity to their partners and sponsors, which, according to the Rage Web site have included New Balance, MTV, the National Education Association, and Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America.
Rage Against Destruction has been touring the country for the last two years and is currently on a swing that will bring them to public schools in New York, New Jersey and then St. Louis, Los Angeles, Tampa, Philadelphia, Chicago and Detroit. Recently they have also been in the Boston, Providence and Nashville areas.
The Rage Against Destruction programs disregard the inappropriateness of using public schools to advocate religious beliefs. Freedom of religion includes the freedom to spread one's proselytizing message. But the principle of separation of church and state means that the public school-organized assemblies not be a platform for this message, either directly or through subterfuge.
What You Can Do As A Concerned Parent, Educator or Citizen
ADL and other national groups have warned educators across the country about groups who seek to use schools to proselytize or promote their own off-campus proselytizing efforts, in violation of the separation of church and state. If you are concerned about a potential church-state violation in your schools, contact the local ADL office in your region.