NH Fish and Game investigates complaint of religious flyers given to hunter safety class
LACONIA (AP) — The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is investigating a complaint from the Freedom from Religion Foundation that participants in an agency-sponsored hunter safety class held at a church were given religious flyers.
Laura Ryder, the department's hunter education supervisor, tells The Laconia Daily Sun (http://bit.ly/2sHLoIU) it's not clear who handed out the flyers at the Heritage Free Will Baptist Church in Laconia. The flyers included prayers and information about services. Ryder said materials in the classes are supposed to pertain strictly to hunting.
"This is a first," Ryder said. "We're reviewing everything that happened and are handling it like a personnel matter."
Messages were left Monday for Pastor Joel Nason, who was the lead instructor for the April class.
Representatives of the foundation, which describes its mission as protecting the constitutional principle of separation of church and state, sent a letter last month complaining about the handouts. One was titled "How can I become God's child" and gave the advice: "Admit that you are a sinner."
Their letter, dated June 28, said, "The State of New Hampshire has no business holding workshops of vital importance to hunting safety that berate attendees as 'sinners,' etc. Such a misuse of a state function for sectarian, proselytizing purposes is disgraceful."
Nicola Whitley, a spokeswoman for the department, said Monday the department can't comment further.
"I can assure you that the hunter education classes are taught from a set curriculum and all instructors are trained and certified," she said in an email. "They are instructed to use only the official curriculum. We have 480 volunteer instructors teaching hunter education, which is required to get a hunting license in New Hampshire. Approximately 5,000 people are certified every year through these classes."