|| Letter to A Sponsor
February 20, 2001
Mr. Richard Wilber, President
First Citizens National Bank
15 South Main Street
Mansfield, PA 16933
RE: The Power Team
Dear Mr. Wilber,
The Towanda Daily Review reported (2/3/01) that the, “First Citizens National Bank recently announced that it would sponsor the Power Team’s visit to Bradford, Tioga, and Sullivan Counties. The Mansfield-based bank has agreed to donate $10,750 in the three county areas with assemblies for students.”
I can appreciate your interest in helping the children ofour area avoid drugs, not get pregnant, or commit suicide. We all share those goals. Many of the members of the Bradford County Alliance for Democracy have been for years, and continue to be, actively involved in programs serving our area’s youth. These involvements include our public schools, Barclay Friends School, Big Brother/Big Sister, county wide soccer programs, Sage House, and many more.
After studying the offerings of the Power Team, we believe this group does not advance those goals we all share, nor are these the Power Team’s primary interest. I am attaching a letter, and related attachments, that has been sent this morning to all Superintendents of Schools in the Bradford, Tioga, and Sullivan County School Districts.
We are now in contact with Larry Frankel, Executive Director of the ACLU in Pennsylvania, because we believe the schools that feature the Power Team in assemblies, as has happened with the Athletes-in-Action, are likely to violate the United States Constitutional protection of religious freedom.
We respectfully ask you to reconsider your support for the Power Team. Your generous offer of $10,750 to support our youth can find many more appropriate ways to be used.
If you have any questions, please give me a call.
Yours truly for BCAFD, Clark Moeller
cc: Larry Frankel, Exec. Dir, ACLU of PA, and Edd Dorr, Americans for Religious Liberty
RR 3 Box 177, Towanda, PA 18884 // 265-6523
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Why the Bradford County Alliance for Democracy (BCAD) has taken issue with the Power Team programs in public schools.
(Sent to all Superintendents of Schools in ten School Districts and to the organizers who worked to bring the Power Team to our region)
By Members, Bradford County Alliance for Democracy, March 19, 2001
By way of introduction, the members of the Bradford County Alliance for Democracy see ourselves as a group of civic minded people who put our beliefs into practice. Many of us have been active in Bradford County for over 30 years. Over these years, many of us have been instrumental in founding Barclay Friends School, Sage House (the safe house for non-adjudicated youth), the Abuse and Rape Crisis Center, the Bradford County Task Force to End Corporal Punishment in Public Schools, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the Area Agency on Aging, The Norther Tier Solid Waste Authority, Bradford County People for Peace, Bradford County League of Women Voters, the Stop The Hate group, the county-wide soccer program in Bradford County, the Towanda Friends Meeting, and Citizens for Press Responsibility at the Daily Review (CPR@DR) which published last year a 142 page analysis of the unethical practices of The Daily Review. All of these programs and institutions have been beneficial to our area. We are and have been involved in our public schools, civic organizations, the sports of the youth, and in our religious institutions. Most of us are parents who have or have had children in our public schools.
Among other issues, we are animated by the belief that the First Amendment of our Constitution provides one of the most effective mechanisms for keeping peace in this great country. The establishment clause of the First Amendment, also referred to as the "separation of church and state" clause, forbids the government to make laws governing religion. Over the last 61 years, the Supreme Court has interpreted this to mean that public schools which are governmental institutions should not be advocating religion. With over 1,600 different denominations in this country, religious freedom for all of us depends on each of us respecting the rights of others, even small minorities, to practice their religion as they see fit so long as this does not infringe on the religious rights of others. Parents of minorities should feel secure in the United States that they can send their children to public school without having their children become the targets of the evangelical proselytizing of others.
As members of BCAD, we have conducted most of our activities quietly and without publicity in an effort to resolve problems quickly. We have sought peaceful, long-term solutions while conducting ourselves in the spirit that everyone should be respected. This approach has usually worked.
Unfortunately, this approach is not always effective. The BCAD's objections to the Power Team have been based on our experience over the last 6 years of in-school assemblies conducted by self-defined evangelical groups who want to make presentations during in-school assemblies at public schools. These groups have included Athletes-in-Action of the Campus Crusade for Christ, the One Man Volleyball Team, and others. In each case, these presenters assured school administrators that they would not violate the First Amendment by making religious evangelical claims, witnessing for Christ, handing out their religious literature, or advertizing their non-school evangelical programs during the school sponsored in-school assemblies. But they did anyway. We believe that with 132 different churches in Bradford County there are many appropriate places for a program by an evangelical group such as the Power Team's program to be held. In our opinion, public schools are not the place.
In most cases, members of the BCAD have warned the Bradford County school administrators in advance that these presenters had a reputation for using bait and switch tactics, of promising not to proselytize during school time, and then doing just that. In most cases, the school administrators apologized and said it would not happen again. But it did, again and again. In some cases, public school administrators and board members just ignored complaints by parents who belong to minority religions, refusing to respond at all to formal verbal requests during school board meetings or to written requests for an explanation of their actions. Sometimes the Boards stonewalled parents with vacuous responses written by their solicitors intended to wear down the parents, hoping they would go away.
This sort of treatment by some school administrators and school boards have caused many parents a great deal of pain and discomfort, to say the least. It made them feel as if they were disenfranchised American citizens. After these experiences and because some public school superintendents and their Boards have refused to accept accountability for their behavior of not obeying the law of Pennsylvania, as well as the Constitution of the United States, we became very skeptical about the informal assurances we got from superintendents and the vociferous defense of the Power Team's by their supporters.
Nevertheless, again we made informal, quiet outreaches to various Superintendents in Bradford County about our concerns. We shared with them the Power Team's website information that clearly defines their goals as evangelical. We voiced our concern that the Power Team would be a repeat of past evangelical in-school bait and switch programs. What we got in return were the same vague assurances. We wrote a polite letter to Mr. Richard Wilber, President First Citizens National Bank, asking him to withdraw funding of the Power Team programs because they are inappropriate for public school assemblies. He did not respond.
As a result, we asked Stefan Presser of the ACLU of PA to write to the Superintendents of ten school districts to inform them of the legal risks they were incurring in having evangelical religious programs in public school. He did so on 2/22/01. This apparently got the attention of some Superintendents. We wrote a couple of articles for the newspapers. This stimulated a blizzard of hostile letters from citizens who claimed that what we needed in public school was the Power Team's evangelical message. This, they were sure was going to resolve in a two hour presentation the drug, suicide, pregnancy problems of troubled youth.
One of the guest columns in The Daily Review was written (3/11/01) by the Police Chief of Troy, Pa., who wrote as the Police Chief. He advocated the message of the Power Team. So, here we have the official police of a government in the United States advocating for an evangelical group. The Executive Director of Sage House, a government funded organization under the control of the Bradford County Commissioners, corralled a group of youngsters in Sage House, who are under her official control, to speak (3/12/01) at a public meeting in support of the Power Team. We saw no local clergy stand up to defend the right of minority members in our community to be free of religious harassment that was growing in our community. The support for the Power Team among the local churches had all the trappings of a religious crusade. The more we heard, the more we became convinced that the Power Team had precious little to do with an anti-drug message and a great deal to do with its stated evangelical mission statement.
We watched the Power Team's TV demo and saw it hosted by Chuck Norris, Texas Ranger. In his regular TV programs, Norris specializes in solving problems by beating people up. Frankly, we have a problem having the Texas Ranger presented as a role model for children particularly when school violence was frequently cited as a reason for letting the Power Team present in public schools. The Power Team video shows a bunch of athletes grunt and grimace before breaking bricks with their hands, forearms and heads. We heard Chuck Norris claim that the Power Team's "message has saved a lot of kids," that the Power Team, had "an astonishing record of steering children away from drugs," but we found no data to support these claims. We believe if the Power Team had any creditable data of success we would find it plastered all over their website. We found the Power Team has no credentials to offer anti-drug programs. What we saw was a glitzy presentation, a half step from being a side show of the Worldwide Wrestling Federation.
We don't believe self esteem is instilled in a two hour program. We know that endorphins can be released by an exciting show. We believe there are much better programs available for helping children avoid drugs, not commit suicide, and avoid getting pregnant - all of which the Power Team claims it does.
However, we heard students and parents at the Towanda School Board meeting say they felt the Power Team would give a positive message and might reach some child. Perhaps they are right. Frankly, we are not impressed with what we have seen and heard about the Power Team, but that's just our opinion. People of good will can differ.
We do not think a presentation by the Power Team will do much harm if they do not undermine the values we feel are essential to our democracy and upon which the various religious communities depend for their religious freedom. One of these is to keep church and state separate so that we all can live in this land without sacrificing the rights of others.
Therefore, we will withdraw publically our objections to the in-school assembly of the Power Team, if the parties at interest give their word in writing that the Power Team will not violate the First Amendment's protection of religious freedom.
Members of the BCAD
Bradford County Alliance for Democracy, P.O. Box 131, Burlington, PA
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February 22, 2001
Mr. Thomas Salpino
Athens Area School District
204 Willow Street
Athens, PA 18810-1298
Dear Mr. Salpino:
We have been advised that your school is considering a request
by the Power Team to make a presentation at your school. It is our understanding
that, notwithstanding their other representations, Power Team is in fact
a missionary religious organization. Given that fact, we write to apprize
you that their presentation within the confines of a public school system
raises serious constitutional problems.
For over thirty years, repeated decisions by the United States
Supreme Court as well as lower federal courts have consistently invalidated
religious proselytization within public schools on the grounds that such
conduct countervenes the principle of separation of church and state which
is enshrined in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the
United States Constitution. See: Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987)
(voiding requirement to teach "creation science"); Wallace v. Jaffree
472 U.S. 38 (1985) (enjoining daily moment of silence for public school
classrooms); Stone v. Graham, 449 U.S. 39 (1980) (prohibiting posting
copy of Ten Commandments on classroom wall); Epperson v. Arkansas, 393
U.S. 97 (1968) (voiding statute prohibiting the teaching of evolution
in state funded schools); Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S.
203 (1963) (enjoining Bible reading before class); Engel v. Vitale, 370
U.S. 421 (1962) (proscribing nonsectarian prayer at beginning of school
day); Illinois ex rel. McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203 (1948)
(preventing religious instruction on school property during school day);
Doe v. Duncanville Independent School District, 986 F.2d 953 (5th Cir.
1993) (prohibiting basketball coach sponsoring prayer at end of games
and practices); Berger v. Rensselaer Central School Corporation, 982 F.2d
1160 (7th Cir. 1993) (enjoining religious organizations distributing Bibles
in classrooms); Roberts v. Madigan, 921 F.2d 1047 (10th Cir. 1990) (prohibiting
religiously oriented books placed in classroom library and teacher silently
reading Bibles during classroom hours); Jager v. Douglas County School
District, 862 F.2d 824 (11th Cir.), cert. denied, 490 U.S. 1090 (1989)
(voiding schools permitting student clubs or organizations to designate
person to deliver invocations prior to high school football games).
Given the clarity and consistency of the above decisions,
this organization strongly counsels against permitting The Power Team
to utilize your facilities to further their proselytization efforts. If
you have any questions about the foregoing, please do not hesitate to
Stefan Presser, Esq.
American Civil Liberties Union, Pennsylvania
PO Box 416
Philadelphia PA 19105-1161
215-592-1513 ext 116
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Open letter to Public School Superintendents
by Jeff Gonzalez, March 9, 2001: This letter was sent to The Daily Review but was not printed by the paper.
The Daily Review in Towanda, Pennsylvania has used a lot of ink and paper to push the case that John Jacobs and the Power Team Crusade should be welcomed into our Public Schools to provide in-school assemblies. The in-school assemblies are planned during the week of March 25th, the same week the Canton Ministerium will be holding evening evangelical programs featuring the Power Team Crusade.
The Review's editorial staff, as well as columnists David Motko and Jill Darling and a host of letter writers have articulated their support, and chastised the Towanda School Board for their decision not to permit the in-school performance.
I listened to the supporters of the Power Team on February 12th at the Towanda School Board meeting where they submitted their endorsements for the in-school assembly program. The following week, I re-checked the Power Team internet site, read reviews of their in-school assemblies, and personally contacted some of the Power Team references mentioned on thier web site. As a result, I have concluded that their program was similar other programs that have been given in our Towanda schools that have violated the First Amendment of our Constitution by trying to convert students to a religion or promoting a religion..
At the next Towanda School Board meeting, I spoke against a Power Team in-school assembly as proposed by the Canton Ministerium. I cited my concerns such as the Power Team’s lack of credentials, lack of curricula, or any coherent message about youthful decision making. I noted that the Power Team offered no documentation relating to their effectiveness in preventing drug use, etc. I said the Power Team seemed to use the same modus-operandi that we have seen before used by the Campus Crusade for Christ's, Athletes in Action presentation in Athens School District. The Athletes in Action also had promised not to promote their religious faith or recruit students to evening evangelical programs. Despite these assurances, the Athletes in Action broke their promise. Before we experienced the dishonest, bait and switch tactics of the Athletes in Action, Towanda School District had other similar programs.
After one such program several years ago, then Superintendent Betty Cox assured me it will not happen again. Later it was then Superintendent Daniel Paul who assured me that the district’s administrators were assured no witnessing or proselytization would occur. They too were sorry and that it won't happen again. Now we have the Power Team. Their supporters also are promising there will be no proselytizing. Do we see a pattern here?
By a margin of 6-2, the Towanda School Board directed the superintendent not to schedule Power Team in-school assembly. The Board then voted unanimously to allow an after-school evening program in the school, which was appropriate because the Power Team’s evening program will not be a school sponsored program.
As an involved parent with children now in High School, Middle School and Elementary school, and as a member of the Bradford County Alliance for Democracy, I feel compelled to respond to the onslaught of pressure on the members of Towanda Area School Board reverse their decision about the Power Team. It is in the roles of parent and citizen that I, along with others, protested the past inappropriate religious programs conducted in area public schools that have violate the civil rights of parents and students.
It is time for a school policy to clarify religious practices allowed in public school. Let’s remember that a public school is part of our government: we elect the school directors and we pay for the schools with our taxes. A student or teacher may pray in public school as an individual. Student run religious clubs may exist, but the public school or its teachers or administrators may not establish or direct a religious club, or sanction a prayer. Schools can teach about religions, about their rituals, observances, beliefs, and history. What the public school can not do is promote or endorse religious beliefs or sanction any prayer. To do so is illegal. Since 1940, the United States Supreme Court has rule thus in 13 decisions. To do so is also immoral, because it makes a lie of their promises not to.
The First Amendment’s separation of church and state is what keeps the peace in our land which has over 1,600 denominations and sects, most of whom do not agree with each other on fundamental religious notions.
The letters to the editor, my personal conversations with supporters of the power team, and editorial content of The Daily Review, have confirmed one thing: the mission of the power team is the mission of the local organizers for the in-school program: "To be a ministry of excellence and integrity with our heartbeat and focus on winning the lost, building the local church, and encouraging the pastor."
One supporter claimed that I never asked for the credentials for other groups. Wrong! As a parent on the program committee and as treasurer for the school’s PTG, we always checked credentials, sought and verified references, and sought out age appropriate programs. We looked for school assembly programs with themes that complimented the existing school curricula. We always obtained approval by the PTG's leadership, and the school’s principal, prior to contracting with an individual or group who were to present a program.
What I stated at the School Board meeting on February 19th was that, "If an assembly is held by a non-credentialed group, (non-certified educators), then they should have a curricula, or provide data that the program has beneficial value." Remember, the school was offered this Power Team program, our School District did not request it and, historically, all too many of the unsolicited programs supplied by religious organizations broke their promises about doing only a secular program.
It appears to me that the real goal of the Canton Ministerium, who are promoting the Power Team's in-school assembly, is exactly the same as that of the Power Team’s mission: “....building the local church, and encouraging the pastor." which I quoted above. On Feb 12th, one of the Canton Ministerium's spokespersons pointed out that this program will cost their host's over $25,000. It was made clear at the meeting that it is very important to fill all the available slots during the Power Team's weekdays. Is that because the fees charged the schools reduces the overhead associated with the evening crusade? Could it be because it helps deliver paying members to the evening crusade? Both? I can't say, but I speculate it is a combination of both. I don't believe the interests of the organizers of this program are completely altruistic.
Organizers would have us believe that this group would never cross the wall of separation between Church and State, as stated by their spokesperson at the February 12th Towanda School Board meeting. They claimed the Power Team would never witness to Christ or God and the Power Team always does assemblies that are secular in public schools. However, later statements published in The Daily Review contradicted this claim. Organizers of the Power Team were quoted as saying that if the public school asks their group not to advertise the evening program in the in-school assembly and ask the Power Team to refrain from witnessing, (or endorsing their particular beliefs), then the Power Team would agree to not do this. So, even though they know it is against the law to witness or proselytize during the in-school assemblies in the public schools, they do it unless asked not to. Their message is, “break the law if no one tells you not to.” Is that the message we want our children to learn?
Jill Darling also wrote in support of the Power Team. As a Daily Review columnist, her themes have included denigrating homosexuals, singing the praise of those she considers her brand of Christian, and promoting home schooling. One of her arguments for home-schooling is that home schooling helps her keep her child's educational experience value based according to her values. However, apparently, Ms. Darling wants the children of other parents exposed to the Power Team even if the Power Team’s message conflicts with their parents’ religion. It’s OK for her to make her case. However, it is not OK for public school Boards or administrators to buy that line. It’s against the law.
Then we have the infamous Daily Review columnist David Mokto weighing in to support the Power Team. If nothing else should worry the promoters of the Power Team, having support from The Daily Review’s Troll of Intolerance should be giving them a queasy feeling in their stomachs.
One letter writer offered his take that I, or others, who oppose the Power Team program are anti-Christian. We disagree. We would react the same way if the Power Team were a group of evangelical Moslems, Hindus, Jews, or Mormons, for examples, attempting to gain access to a captive audience of children. I can just hear the cries of outrage from the Power Team supporters if a Hindu group ran an evangelical program in local schools.
Another writer appealed to the public on behalf of the PowerTeam organizers by arguing that all those who opposed the Power Team are insensitive to the problems facing our youth. Nothing is further from the truth. Many of those involved in objecting to the Power Team are among the most active people in our county in programs that support children. Their involvements include youth sports, PTG programs, in-school volunteers, reading assistants, tutors, judges in school forensic competitions, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Scouting, ending corporal punishment in public schools, and youth programs in Churches to name a few.
What the opponents of the Power Team understand is how important it is to not bring into public schools programs that will become a religious battle ground. Furthermore, we understand that by giving favor to a particular religious perspective in public school, by allowing a Power Team to witness, advertize their evening program during a school assembly, the Power Team seeks to legitimize of their religious beliefs by association with the public schools. Conducting evangelical program during in-school assemblies gives their message the appearance of an ipso-facto endorsement by our government. People who object to the Power Team understand that it was wrong for the administrators of our Towanda public schools to look the other way several years ago when a former basketball coach routinely held locker room prayer sessions.
One letter justified the Power Team program because others like it had been permitted. The ramifications of these past events are reason enough supporting the Towanda School Boards decision not to have the Power Team. In every case I am familiar with, complaints were lodged, and commitments were made by the schools administrators to not make the mistake again. In each case, promises were made to the administration to avoid entanglement of church and state, and in each case the administration was deceived. It happened in Towanda as I explained, it happened in Athens with the Athletes in Action program of the Campus Crusade for Christ, and it happened in North East Bradford schools when they had the One Man Volleyball Team religious crusade. In each case many parents who learned about the evangelical content of the programs were angry, as they should have been.
So, where do we go from here? Well, we can hope, that after all of the promises that the organizers of the Power Team program have made, the Power Team will not use their appearance in other area schools to promote their evening programs. We can hope that they will follow the spirit of their promises and not distribute their religious literature to children before, during or after the in-school programs on school property. We can hope they keep their commitment not to endorse or have a representative endorse the Power Team’s evening evangelization programs during the in school program. To do anything less will diminish the credibility of the local spokespersons and organizers of the Power Team visit.
We can also hope the program(s) that are allowed during school are more than entertaining, and they actually help more children than they harm.
I know there are better, more focused anti-drug programs that do not blur the lines between church and state are available. I am saddened that because of the bully tactics of The Daily Review and the promoters of the Power Team these other programs will probably not be presented in our schools. Why? Since student instructional time and funds available for assemblies are limited, I doubt that focused, quality programs will get the chance to be presented this year in many area schools.
There is time for the administrators of the local schools to do what is right, to disallow the Power Team. After hearing all the diatribes by the Power Team supporters and listening to their rants during personal phone calls, I am more convinced than ever that the Power Team was never about education; it is about preaching to our children by a group focused on conversion of our families to their faith.
The silent majority is made up of those who understand the value of a truly secular school system for all. The silent majority understands you do not indoctrinate, or give groups access to advertise to the children of another family in our public school. We, as neighbors, with very different religious, social, economic, cultural, and historical perspectives, have very similar goals and hopes for our children, and the children of our neighbors. This is our common ground which lets us co-exist.
Resident of Towanda School District
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Response to Police Chief
March 11, 2001
RE: Police Chief Hostettler’s professional advice.
Putting aside Police Chief Hostettler’s gratuitous, but certainly professional, name calling in his March 11th letter in The Daily Review, I do get nervous when a law enforcement professional displays such a tenuous grasp of the Constitution of the United States.
For example, Police Chief Hostettler wants to ignore the meaning of the First Amendment’s separation of church and state clause and fall back on what the “founding fathers” intended. He does this because he finds it inconvenient to explain away the last 61 years of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions on the First Amendment.
But lets accept his perspective about what the founding fathers intended. One would think that, “a thorough and complete examination of the founding fathers’ views,” as asserted by Police Chief Hostettler, would show that when the founding fathers wrote in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal,” they meant “all men are created equal.” But they didn’t. It took until 1865 to free the slaves, 1920 before women got the vote, and 1940 before the Supreme Court decided that the First Amendment really did apply to all our citizens.
If, as Police Chief Hostettler asserts, this “learned group of men [the founding fathers] understood the need for society to have a solid spiritual, moral, and ethical base to survive and prosper,” why is it that they left any reference to God out of the Constitution? Did they just.... forget? Or, could it be that the founding fathers understood better than Police Chief Hostettler that a people and individuals can, “have a solid spiritual, moral, and ethical base,” without Police Chief Hostettler’s religious perspective. Perhaps the founding fathers felt no need to shove their particular religion down everyone else’s throat However, I am sure the founding fathers understood very well that our citizens did not want the government of the United States forcing government-sponsored religious instructions on their children or their children’s children.
Lets look at this Power Team issue another way. Police Chief Hostettler presents himself as a professional law enforcement officer. If a person has violated the law repeatedly after promising Police Chief Hostettler to go straight, are we to assume the Chief of Poice Hostettler will say, “I trust you, don’t worry I won’t check up on you.” Maybe that is what he does but some of us don’t do that. We have been there, seen that about evangelical in-school programs in Bradford County. As Jeff Gonzalez reports [*in his letter written 3/9/01], “The Athletes in Action also had promised not to promote their religious faith or recruit students to evening evangelical programs. Despite these assurances, the Athletes in Action broke their promise. Before we experienced the dishonest, bait and switch tactics of the Athletes in Action, Towanda School District had other similar programs. After one such program several years ago, then Towanda Superintendent Betty Cox assured me it will not happen again. Later it was then Superintendent Daniel Paul who assured me that the district’s administrators were assured no witnessing or proselytization would occur. They too were sorry and that it won't happen again. Now we have the Power Team. Their supporters also are promising there will be no proselytizing.” Excuse me but I see a pattern here.
But apparently I am missing the point here. After all, as Police Chief Hostettler asks in his letter, “You want a professional opinion, Mr. Moeller, I’ll give you one, “the message of the Power Team brings is one that is very much needed.” And that is, - - and I quote, “To be a ministry of excellence and integrity with our heartbeat and focus on winning the lost, building the local church, and encouraging the pastor.” (Power Team’s mission statement).
So, what we have here is a local Police Chief, who writes as the Police Chief and who trots out his professional credentials to support his authority, promoting a religious program for in-school assemblies in the United States. This raises some serious Constitutional questions. Just what does Police Chief Hostsettler think the appropriate role of police is in our society? Does anyone else get the feeling that there something seriously out of whack in Troy, Pennsylvania?
Bradford County Alliance for Democarcy
[* this phrase was cut out of The Daily Review's published version of this article.]
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March 15, 2001
Superintendent Donald C. Butler
Towanda Area School District
101 N 4th St JA Morrow Bldg
Towanda PA 18848-1397
RE: Proposed Agreement on the Power Team
Dear Superintendent Butler,
You may be familiar with the concerns of the Bradford County
Alliance for Democracy (BCAD) about having the Power Team make in-school
presentations in Bradford, Sullivan, Tioga Counties, Pennsylvania. If
you are not, attached is a background note of explanation.
In order to develop a spirit of co-operation between various
groups in our counties about performances of the Power Team during in-school
assemblies in public schools, members of the Bradford County Alliance
for Democracy (BCAD) offer what we believe to be a very sensible and straight
forward solution. It is the agreement which we have attached. This agreement
depends on each party’s making a commitment consistent with the interest
of the others; such actions of respect are, we believe, the foundation
on which trust can develop.
In the spirit of mutual cooperation, we ask you to sign the
attached agreement. Our signed copy is enclosed with this letter.
We believe we are already on the way towards an amiable solution
because of the actions taken by the Towanda School Board and apparently
by some other school districts. Members of the BCAD attended the Towanda
School Board meeting held Monday, March 12, 2001. We were delighted and
pleased with the responsible position taken by Superintendent Butler and
the School Directors in their decision to approve the in-school assembly
of the Power Team with the restrictions that there be no religious proselytizing,
distribution of religious literature, nor promoting after school evangelical
programs by the Power Team. Furthermore, Superintendent Butler said he
would stop the Power Team’s program during their program if they violated
these restrictions. It seems to us these terms and conditions satisfy
those who are promoting the Power Team and those who have justified concerns
about protecting the First Amendment. We think it is a win-win solution.
It is our understanding from the 3/13/01, page 1 article
in The Daily Review that some other school districts in our three county
area have taken a similar policy position on the Power Team. We appreciate
the leadership these Superintendents and School Boards have demonstrated.
We look forward to your prompt response and signed copy of
Yours truly for the BCAD,
Katie Replogle, Chair
PS: The same letter is being sent to eleven superintendents, Canton PA
Ministerium, and to the Power Team. Addresses of all these are attached.
Short title: NO PUBLIC SCHOOL PROSELYTIZING AGREEMENT
In order to develop a spirit of co-operation between various
groups in our counties about performances by a group known as The Power
Team during in-school assemblies in public schools, members of the Bradford
County Alliance for Democracy offer the following solution.
AN AGREEMENT BETWEEN AND AMONG
1. The Bradford County Alliance for Democracy (BCAD) will withdraw
its objections about the Power Team presentation during in-school assemblies
or in other events sponsored by the public school and will communicate this
withdrawal to the public via the media.
- THE POWER TEAM,
- THE LEADERSHIP OF THE LOCAL MINISTERIUM,
- THE SUPERINTENDENT OF THE PUBLIC SCHOOL PLANNING TO HAVE A POWER TEAM
IN-SCHOOL ASSEMBLY, AND
- THE BRADFORD COUNTY ALLIANCE FOR DEMOCRACY.
2. John Jacobs, or another legally authorized representative
of the Power Team, agrees that during Power Team in-school assemblies or
other public school sponsored Power Team events, the members of the Power
Team will not: promote any religion; speak about or make personal religious
witness; distribute Power Team religious literature or make references to
their website; or ask local supporters to distribute any religious literature
in or on public school property.
3. The leadership of the local Ministeriums in Canton, Troy,
Towanda, Athens, and any other Ministeriums in Bradford County, Pennsylvania,
which are now promoting the Power Team in Bradford County agree that while
on public school property during school hours to not: promote any religion;
speak about or make personal religious witness; distribute Power Team religious
literature; or ask local supporters to distribute any religious literature
in or on public school property or to make references to the Power Team
4. The Superintendent of any School District who has agreed
to let the Power Team present a school-sponsored event agrees to allow a
member (s) of the Bradford County Alliance for Democracy to observe the
Power Team presentation in that school.
5. If, in the opinion of the Superintendent, or his or her
designee, the terms of this agreement are violated during presentation of
the in-school assembly, the Superintendent, or his or her designee will
terminate the assembly immediately.
6. All signatories to this agreement will promptly forward
to all other signatories of this agreement a copy of their signed copy of
this agreement before the Power Team performs in a public school.
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Product of the Power Team Initiative
Bradford County Alliance for Democracy, October 17, 2001 -- As a result of the Power Team initiative, BCAD and Pennsylvania Alliance for Democracy (PAD) drafted an agreement to help school administrators avoid instances of proseltizing in their schools. This"Agreement of Compliance with the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States in our Public School" has been endorsed by the ACLU of PA, American's United for Church and State Separation, the Pennsylvania State Education Association, and a number of other organizations.
PAD has distributed this "Agreement of Compliance" state-wide to all 501 school districts. You will find the agreement on PAD's website, at http://www.padnet.org/firstamendment.html.
In summary, the leadership of the local Ministerium generated a great deal of pressure on the various school superintendents, many letters to the editor were written by their parishioners, and there was standing room only crowds at the school board meetings where the issue of the Power Team was discussed. This experience was a case study demonstrating the importance of the First Amendment's separation of church and state. With a few exceptions, the Power Team was permitted to present during school assemblies. However, according to members and allies of BCAD who monitored some of the programs, none of the Power Team presentations included evangelical proselytizing. For BCAD, that was the bottom line.
Given the history of the Power Team elsewhere and its mission statement, "To be a ministry of excellence and integrity with our heartbeat and focus on winning the lost, building the local church, and encouraging the pastor," BCAD has good grounds to believe its protest discouraged the Power Team from violating the First Amendment in our local public schools. However, we are fully aware that the Power Team, and other organizations such as Athletes in Action, are continuing their effort to undermine the First Amendment with their evangelical proselytizing in public schools. Over the last several years there have been numerous incidents in Pennsylvania when the civil rights of parents and their children have been violated during public school sponsored programs such as school assemblies, graduation ceremonies, or similar events. This occurs when an outside guest speaker at a graduation ceremony or school assembly program expresses his or her religious faith in such a manner that it violates the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, also know as the church-state separation clause.
The "Agreement of Compliance with the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States in our Public School" has been designed as a simple, practical, and legally defensible tool that will help public school administrators. In the future, if superintendents require that the ‘An Agreement of Compliance" be signed by all outside paid or volunteer speakers who are to be involved in school sponsored programs, the superintendent will have done a lot to prevent First Amendment violations in the first place, as well as defuse the concerns of those who are strong supporters of religious liberty as guaranteed in the First Amendment.
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Summary of the argument for protecting church-state separation
In the United States there are over 2,000 different religions
and religious denominations. Many of these religions profess very different
beliefs about the nature of a supreme being, the accuracy of their sacred
texts as an expression of a supreme being’s will, how apparent inconsistencies
in sacred texts are explained, the relationship of men and women to God,
who may be a religious leader or teacher, the origin of mankind, when the
earth was created, how it was formed, the relationship between men and women,
whether life is sacred and whether it is moral to kill another human, what
it means to live a good life, and so forth. These differences among religions
can be profound and irreconcilable. Too often these disagreements have degenerated
into war, particularly when one religious group gained control of the government
with its police power. Unfortunately, these wars still continue in many
parts of the world. In the United States we have avoided the worst manifestations
of these religious conflicts by separating the state from the church in
the First Amendment of our Constitution.
Public schools are part of local government. Public schools
are governed by elected school board directors. Public schools are supported
by taxes. For these reasons, courts have long held that public schools are
subject to the First Amendment.
People of faith should be free to practice their religion and
teach their religious faith to their children without governmental interference.
For example, parents who send their children to public school should feel
comfortable that their children are not being subjected to religious proselytizing
in the public schools. We have learned from experience that what may seem
to be an innocuous, non-denominational prayer to one person, such as a moment
of silence, is experienced as unwelcome religious proselytizing by another
person. This is certainly one reason why Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black
said, “The First Amendment has erected a wall of separation between church
and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable.” (Everson v Bd of
Ed of Ewing Township,330 U.S. 1, 18 (1947)). Separation of church and state
has kept the peace among our nation’s religious communities while at the
same time protecting each person’s religious liberty so long as the practice
of that religion does not interfere with the religious rights and safety
Other United States Supreme Court and lower Federal court decisions
which have upheld the concept of ‘separation of church and state’ in their
interpretations of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment include:
· Illinois ex rel. McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203 (1948) (preventing
religious instruction on school property during school day); Engel v. Vitale,
370 U.S. 421 (1962) (proscribing nonsectarian prayer at beginning of school
day); · Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963) (enjoining
Bible reading before class); · Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U.S. 97 (1968)
(invalidating statute prohibiting the teaching of evolution in state funded
schools); · Stone v. Graham, 449 U.S. 39 (1980) (prohibiting posting copy
of Ten Commandments on classroom wall); · Wallace v. Jaffree 472 U.S. 38
(1985) (enjoining daily moment of silence for public school classrooms);
· Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987) (invalidating requirement to
teach "creation science"); Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577 (1992) (striking
down prayer at public school graduation ceremonies. · Santa Fe Independent
School District v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290 (2000) (striking down school policy
allowing student-led prayer at start of school football games.) · Roberts
v. Madigan, 921 F.2d 1047 (10th Cir. 1990) (prohibiting religiously oriented
books placed in classroom library and teacher silently reading Bibles during
classroom hours.); · Doe v. Duncanville Independent School District, 986
F.2d 953 (5th Cir. 1993) (prohibiting basketball coach from sponsoring prayer
at end of games and practices); and · Berger v. Rensselaer Central School
Corporation, 982 F.2d 1160 (7th Cir. 1993) (enjoining religious organizations
distributing Bibles in classrooms).
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