A church youth leader has been barred from volunteering at a Salem public school after a student said he was promoting Christianity and insulted her for being an atheist.
Tim Saffeels, a youth mentor who had been visiting a public school in Oregon has been barred from returning after a complaint from an atheist student. In an email to Principal Laura Perez, Shelby Conway, an eighth grader at Straub Middle School, stated she felt uncomfortable having Tim Saffeels, lunchtime volunteer, visit the school after he allegedly told Conway that atheism was “wrong” and “evil”.
Shelby Conway’s email to Principal Perez stated Saffeels had preached to her during a lunchtime conversation on October 23rd. The conversation allegedly touched on Christianity and Conway’s atheism, with Saffeels encouraging Conway to attend a church function after he found out she was not Christian. She also claimed that Saffeels insulted her; telling her she was “too young” to hold atheistic beliefs and that she was endeavoring to be rebellious. Conway stated she was “very uncomfortable” and “personally offended” by how Saffeels treated her and other non-Christians during the conversation.
Saffeels said that the student instigated the conversation, but Marry Paulson school district chief of staff, feels that Saffeels should have recommended that students talk to their parents or church officials, thereby avoiding the situation. Saffeels states the allegations are untrue, that he never said atheism was evil; however, another student is backing Conway’s claim.
Saffeels, director of student ministries at Salem Heights Church, has been visiting the school for three years at the request of children involved in his student ministry at the church. Principal Perez said she felt that Saffeels had breached trust, and he would not be returning to the school during this school year. Perez stated that her decision would be revisited at the end of the academic year, to evaluate if Saffeels would be allowed to return for the next academic year.