|Church - State Separation|| [Welcome]
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This page is in progress. Please excuse the lack of organization, these links are provided in random order as I am working on the changes, to give you immediate access even though the page is not completed. If you know of information that should be included, please send an email to me at email@example.com. Thank you
Church-State Separation: A Keystone to Peace, html file, revised and updated January 2004, edition 3 (Clark Moeller, PAD) (WILL OPEN IN NEW BROWSER WINDOW)
Church-State Separation: A Keystone to Peace, PDF file, revised and updated January 2004, edition 3 (Clark Moeller, PAD) (WILL OPEN IN NEW BROWSER WINDOW)
God and Government: Separating Church and State http://www.pbs.org/now/politics/churchandstate.html (from NOW with Bill Moyers)
Churches And Politics: A Guide For Religious Leaders http://www.au.org/pasguide.htm(from Americans United)
Americans United Church State Newsletter
The Pew Forum on Religions and Public Life: Faith-Based Initiatives and the Bush Administration
Q & A About Charitable Choice (from Anti Defamation League) http://www.adl.org/charitable_choice/charitable_choice_faq.asp
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Salvation Army Sued for Religious Discrimination Against Employees in Government-Funded Social Services for Children
NY Civil Liberties Union, February 24, 2004 -- The New York Civil Liberties Union today filed a lawsuit in federal court charging The Salvation Army with religious discrimination against employees in its government-funded social services in New York City and on Long Island.
"This case is not about the right of the Salvation Army to practice or promote its religion. They have every right to do so, but not with government money," said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU. "The Salvation Army cannot use taxpayer money to practice religious discrimination against its social services employees."
The Salvation Army provides social services for more than 2,000 children each day who are placed with the charity by the government. The programs are funded almost exclusively by taxpayer money. The agency receives $89 million in taxpayer funds for social services and employs about 800 people.
The case arose after The Salvation Army began to require all employees in its Social Services for Children division to fill out a form on which they: a) identify their church affiliation and all other churches attended for the past decade, b) authorize their religious leaders to reveal private communications to the Salvation Army; and c) pledge to adhere to the religious mission of The Salvation Army which, according to The Salvation Army, is to "preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
Moreover, new job descriptions for every social services employee now require compliance with the Salvation Army’s religious mission statement. Previously, the social services unit had its own mission statement which was completely secular.
The lawsuit asks the federal court to order the 136-year-old charity to stop these practices and to rule that the government funding of the Salvation Army’s faith-based discrimination against its social services employees in foster care, adoption, HIV, juvenile detention and other social services is illegal. Agencies for New York State, New York City and Nassau County and Suffolk County are named also as co-defendants.
The NYCLU lawsuit was filed on behalf of 18 current and former Salvation Army employees of varying religious and non-religious backgrounds. They include many of the most respected senior managers in the agency.
Anne Lown is the current Associate Executive Director of Social Services for Children of the Salvation Army and has received five promotions in the 24 years she has worked for the charity. "I do not think my religious beliefs nor the religious beliefs of the 800 employees in Social Services for Children are any business of the Salvation Army," Lown said.
Added Mary Jane Dessables, the Management Information Systems Director for the Salvation Army who has worked for the charity for 12 years: "Although I am not a Salvationist, I have sung for their Devotionals and attended their Good Friday services. I participated because I wanted to, not because it was required or requested of me."
Margaret Geissman, the former Human Resources Manager for Social Services for Children with the Salvation Army, said she left the charity rather than provide personal information about employees. "When I refused to answer questions that I felt were clearly illegal and violated my employees’ privacy, I was harassed to the point where eventually I resigned. As a Christian, I deeply resent the use of discriminatory employment practices in the name of Christianity."
The new policy was initiated as part of a Reorganization Plan last year by the national leaders of the charity "to narrow the gap" between the ecclesiastical Salvation Army and the social services component. The goal of the Reorganization Plan was to ensure that "as a Christian agency … a reasonable number of Salvationists along with other Christians [will be employed by The Salvation Army.]"
NYCLU Legal Director Arthur Eisenberg noted that The Salvation Army’s new employment practices "have injected religion into the workplace in ways that violate the anti-discrimination principles of the Fourteenth Amendment."
Martin Garbus, whose law firm Davis and Gilbert is co-counsel with the NYCLU, cited President Bush’s Faith-Based Initiative as the catalyst for the current situation and called it "the greatest transfer of wealth from governmental bodies to evangelical churches. Federal, state and local services are being used to spread the evangelical message."
In addition to Eisenberg, Lieberman and Garbus, the plaintiffs are also represented by NYCLU staff attorney Beth Haroules; NYCLU co-counsel Deborah Karpatkin; and Howard Rubin and Gregg Brochin from the Davis and Gilbert law firm.
The NYCLU is the New York affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union.
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How The White House Is Tilting The Playing Field
AU Church and State, September 2003 -- President George W. Bush and other boosters of the "faith-based initiative" insist that the effort is intended to create a "level playing field" between religious and non-religious groups.
But new evidence indicates that the faith-based initiative isn’t about a level playing field at all. It’s about tilting the field dramatically in favor of religious groups.
Consider what happened to the Western Massachusetts Shelter for Homeless Veterans. Last year, the Northampton shelter lost more than $400,000 in federal funding. Despite the shelter’s long and proven track record of serving veterans, the money, shelter officials were told, would go to religious groups instead.
The shelter got the money back this year – but only after its director, John Downing, emphasized the religious and spiritual services the facility provides. Downing felt playing up the religious component would make the center more attractive to the federal government, and he was right.
Not far away in Rhode Island, several local service organizations that have been serving their communities for years have been denied federal funding. Why? The money is going to faith-based organizations instead – even though the religious groups, as one local newspaper put it, "have no record of success."
The Corporation for National and Community Service has allocated $324,000 in Americorps funding for staffing at four daycare centers run by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence.
But The Children’s Crusade, a mentoring program that has won national honors, lost all its budget of half a million dollars. The group had hoped to partner 35 young adults with poor minority children. That won’t be happening now.
Another group, City Year Rhode Island, which coordinates community service programs for youngsters, lost half of its entire budget. Group leaders said they would have to scale back programs.
Bush, White House "faith czar" James Towey and others claim that their goal is to provide effective services. If that is so, then why are they draining money away from time-tested providers and funneling it toward religious groups, many of which are unproven in this area?
Social-service providers are clearly getting the message that they have a better shot at a federal grant if they emphasize a religious component. These agency leaders know exactly what is going on: The administration doesn’t want a level-playing field; it is biased toward religious providers.
Bush and his backers are careful to dress this up for public consumption. They never come out and say that they are discriminating in favor of religious groups. Instead, they claim that religious groups are more effective than their secular counterparts.
But no objective data backs up this claim. It is simply accepted as gospel by the administration and repeated over and over again – because they have a built-in bias toward “faith-based” groups.
When science doesn’t bolster their predetermined beliefs, faith-based boosters simply change the science. In June, Religious Right leader Charles W. Colson’s Prison Fellowship trumpeted claims that its InnerChange program reduced recidivism rates among prisoners. A press release went out, and administration officials yelled "hallelujah," backed by the predictable amen chorus from The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page.
But there was one problem: A public policy professor at the University of California at Los Angeles analyzed the data and found that InnerChange had not reduced the recidivism rates. In fact, inmates in InnerChange had returned to prison at a slightly higher rate than a control group! Colson’s group did not like this result, so it cooked the data.
So far, this hasn’t fazed supporters of religious programs in prison. Their bias in favor of this approach makes them immune to contrary data.
Is the administration’s tilt toward faith-based funding making a difference in the lives of people? Absolutely – but not a positive one. It’s bad enough that this new approach violates church-state separation. What it is doing to people on the ground – people who need effective services – is also troubling.
In Massachusetts, homeless veterans, many of them struggling with alcoholism, faced the possibility of having nowhere to go but the streets. One man, Ennis Ricketts, a veteran of the Vietnam War, told the Associated Press, “I came close to having no place to go. I probably would’ve ended up back on substances and on the streets.”
U.S. Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) stopped in at the shelter to announce that the funding was being restored. Neal was glad to see the money returned, but he expressed concern for the future.
"I hope we never find ourselves asking what religion veterans are when they apply for services," he said.
Yet that seems to be exactly where we are headed. The administration’s "faith first" bias puts the least fortunate among us in a difficult spot. It’s clear that the new preference for funding religious groups is going to leave those running non-religious programs out in the cold; thus, if you’re in need of help, you’d better be prepared to go to church, listen to a sermon or say some prayers.
The next time you hear an administration official promoting faith-based services, remember what’s really going on. It’s not about ending unequal treatment or leveling playing fields. The goal is preferential treatment for religious groups – with your tax dollars paying the way.
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Religious Activity in Public Schools
Liz Hrenda, March 1, 2002 -- In the United States there are over 2,000 recognized faith groups. Remarkably, with this extensive religious diversity, we have had very little conflict among religious groups, compared to nations where adherents of one faith engage in campaigns of terror, harassment or even warfare against each other. One reason for this history of peace is that our nation's public school system has, by and large, protected the rights of students and teachers to freedom of religion. Instead of promoting the values of one faith, our schools teach our children to tolerate different points of view, seek to understand those who believe differently, and engender respect for others.
This is not to say that religion has been driven out of schools. The federal Department of Education has issued general rules which clarify the religious rights and protections relevant to public schooling. These guidelines state explicitly that students are allowed to pray, "so long as they are not disruptive." They also specify that school personnel "are prohibited from encouraging student religious or anti-religious activity." Indeed, given the many different ways that religious people choose to pray, and recognizing that many others choose not to pray at all, it is not surprising that government-sponsored prayer in schools is opposed by twenty-six national religious organizations. These include National Council of Churches; the Mennonite Central Committee, USA; American Jewish Congress; United Methodist Church; Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs; American Baptist Churches, USA; The Episcopal Church; Friends Committee on National Legislation; Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), United Church of Christ; Unitarian Universalist Association; Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America; National Council of Jewish Women.
We urge you to respect the religious freedom of our nation, the language of our Constitution, and the rights of all of your constituents, and resist efforts to promote religious observance in public schools. Allow children to pray, or not, in the manner consistent with their faiths, and that of their families, and do not allow government intrusion into this very personal area of their lives. To do otherwise would be a betrayal of the principles on which our nation was founded. As Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in a June 1992 opinion, "No holding of this Court suggests that a school can persuade or compel a student to participate in a religious exercise. . . The First Amendment's Religion Clauses mean the religious beliefs are too precious to be either proscribed or prescribed by the State."
The above is the text of a memo sent to all Pennsylvania County Commissioners in response to a campaign initiated by Washington County officials. Those officials sent letters to each county asking commissioners to back a proposed contsitutional amendenment that would allow government-sponsored religion in public schools.
As School Begins, Students' Rights Must Be Protected
Liz Hrenda, September 10, 2001 -- With the beginning of the school year, the Pennsylvania Alliance for Democracy has issued a call to respect the First Amendment rights of all public school students with regard to freedom of religion. "Our schools strive to offer students education about important life and health choices. Sometimes they use presenters from outside the educational system, who may be entertaining or share real-life experiences," said Liz Hrenda, Executive Director. "These presenters may be unaware of the schools' responsibility to protect the religious freedom of students, or may take advantage of the captive audience that the school assembly provides to proselytize. No matter how strongly a person may feel about his or her own beliefs, public schools must be places where children of all religions feel welcomed and respected."
Pennsylvania Alliance for Democracy has devised a simple form which school officials can use to assure themselves that presenters are informed of the need to respect the religious freedom of students. The form is being mailed to superintendents around the state, and is also available below*, or may be obtained in print by contacting PAD at 300 North Second Street, Suite 906, Harrisburg, PA 17101
*Agreement of Compliance: Respecting the First Amendment Rights of Public School Students. (This is a 2 page PDF file, which opens in separate window and loads slowly, please be patient. Adobe Acrobat Reader necessary, free download available)
OR, for those without pdf file capability, these two pages can also be printed from a separate browser popup window: *Agreement of Compliance and explanation to accompany Agreement
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Dangers of Faith-Based Funding Program
Liz Hrenda, August 21, 2001 -- At a symposium on faith-based funding organized by the United Way of Pennsylvania, the Reverend Joy K. Kaufmann, Director of Public Advocacy of the Pennsylvania Council of Churches, praised the commitment and intelligence of John Dilulio, head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. The Reverend Kaufmann noted the immense challenges facing this office, and offered her opinion that, if anyone could make this work, it would be Dilulio. After only seven months on the job, Dilulio is leaving, with most of the questions unanswered and having found no constitutional means to permit government funding of religious activities. Dilulio's departure should be an occasion to consider whether faith-based funding should be pursued further.
Laboring against concerns about the constitutionality and efficacy of faith-based funding, Dilulio also came under attack from the far right. Michael Joyce until recently directed the Bradley Foundation, which promotes public funding of sectarian schools. Joyce now heads Americans for Community and Faith-Centered Enterprise, whose mission is to build support for faith-based government funding. Opening his new venture, Joyce said, "I wouldn't say Dilulio has made a mess of things, but to have a Democratic, Catholic, Italian guy out there doing battle with the good old boys ...that just doesn't work." Sadly, by this bigoted statement, Joyce underlines concerns that religious groups receiving government funds would be permitted to discriminate in ways which are both illegal and repugnant.
Basing government funding on religion rather than competence and accountability compromises both government and religion. Invariably, religious organizations, acting in concert with their beliefs, behave in ways that government and government contractors may not. They may require participation in worship activity, discriminate in employment, or offer benefits on the basis of gender, martial status, sexual orientation or behavior according to their faith. Religious organizations seeking to provide human services to those outside their own faiths have set up separate charitable organizations. These separate agencies provide services consistent with their religious missions, but are private non-profit corporations. They receive public funds and are accountable to the public. They must adhere to professional standards and health and safety regulations.
Faith-based funding proposals would provide tax dollars for religious activity, requiring recipients to participate to qualify for help. It has also been proposed that religious organizations be exempted from licensing and health and safety standards. There is no reason to believe that participants in a religiously-based drug treatment program require less qualified counselors, or will become less ill from eating tainted food, than those in secular programs. Lowering the standards for faith-based organizations results in less accountability and increased risks to public health and safety.
On the other side of the equation, our nation has benefitted from the social witness of religious organizations. Often, religious leaders have been the first to demand that our government end injustices and behave more humanely. Our nation's founders are rightly criticized for not ending slavery. But by guaranteeing that religion would be free of government interference, they allowed the flourishing of religious institutions which became a major force for the demise of slavery. This ability to move us toward justice is the enduring value of separating religion and government.
Such courageous leadership is no less needed today, as we are challenged to act with compassion and justice toward immigrants, addicts, people in poverty and in prisons, all of our marginalized sisters and brothers. Government funding threatens to sap the vigor of religious social witness. Spiritual leaders might hesitate to speak up for unpopular causes if they fear that their words may cost their congregations a government contract. "Faith-based groups play a critical role in our society," notes the Reverend Larry Bethune, pastor of University Baptist Church in Austin, Texas. "But to be true to their mission, religious groups must maintain their independence from government."
Liz Hrenda is Executive Director of Pennsylvania Alliance for Democracy, www.padnet.org
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Legislation Joins Church and State in 'Unholy Matrimony,' Says AU's Lynn
Americans United, July 19, 2001 -- Despite intense criticism from the religious, civil liberties, civil rights, educational and social service communities, the U.S. House of Representatives voted today in favor of the White House faith-based initiative.
President Bush's effort to fund religious groups with federal tax dollars was introduced in the House as the "Community Solutions Act" (H.R. 7) by Reps. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) and Tony Hall (D-Ohio).
Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which has spearheaded opposition to the faith-based initiative, expressed deep disappointment in the House vote and indicated a lawsuit may be necessary if the bill becomes law.
"This bill joins church and state in unholy matrimony," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "If the Bush initiative becomes law, we'll go to court and file for divorce.
"The Constitution forbids government promotion of religion, but that's exactly what this initiative does," Lynn added. "The bill passes the collection plate to taxpayers, subsidizes discrimination and entangles religion with government. The Senate must put a stop to this misguided scheme."
Lynn noted that the House action did not come easily. Yesterday, after House leaders scheduled a floor vote on the legislation, Republican moderates balked over aspects of the bill that permit federally funded employment discrimination, sending the House into disarray and leading to a startling delay in consideration of the bill.
AU's Lynn said the bill is a disaster.
"Bush's crusade to fund religion with tax dollars is one of those rare beasts that harms everyone affected by it," observed Lynn. "It's no wonder that the initiative has come under fire from the right, left and center."
Among the bill's most serious flaws:
It undermines the nation's commitment to civil rights -- Current law permits religious organizations to make employment decisions based on religious affiliation or compliance with religious teachings in their privately funded activities. The faith-based initiative expands this principle to allow discrimination in publicly financed religious programs. As a result, religious groups would be able to receive public funds and still discriminate in hiring on the basis of religion and other characteristics the religious group might find theologically relevant, including marital status, sexual orientation or pregnancy.
The initiative harms families in need -- If this initiative becomes law, many disadvantaged Americans will be asked to go to a religious institution they may or may not agree with to obtain desperately needed public services. Once there, families may face pressure to participate in religious activities at a government-funded facility. In fact, any religious group that receives federal assistance through vouchers or other forms of so-called "indirect" aid will be permitted under this bill to engage in conversion efforts at public expense.
It overrides state and local control -- This initiative allows publicly funded religious groups the luxury of an exemption from state and local anti-discrimination laws. It also subjects city, county and state governments to new lawsuits by religious organizations that believe they were denied funding because of their "religious character." Making matters worse, this federal legislation offers no funding to state and local officials to pay for alternatives if beneficiaries object to religiously based services.
The measure ignores the rights of taxpayers -- When taxpayers are asked by the state to subsidize religious institutions they may or not believe in, it is no different from forcing them to put money in the collection plates of churches, synagogues, temples and mosques.
It harms religious institutions -- Public accountability requires regulation of public funds. Once religious institutions are being financed by tax dollars, some of their freedom will be placed in jeopardy by the almost certain regulation to follow. The plan also calls for competition between religious groups. For the first time in American history, religious groups will be encouraged to battle it out for a piece of an increasingly small government pie. Pitting houses of worship against each other in this fashion is a recipe for divisive conflict.
"This is a disastrous initiative whose time should never come," concluded Lynn. "Today's vote was an appalling assault on the nation's religious liberty and civil rights. We will do everything possible to defeat this initiative if it is considered in the Senate."
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.
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On the Disappearing Separation of Church and State
Catherine Stoner, July 6, 2001 -- The constitution rests as the cornerstone of American democracy, and millions have viewed it since its conception as an altar to freedom upon which even life itself is willingly sacrificed. And yet, the greatest threat to the constitution comes not from an invading army of fascist infidels seeking to impose totalitarian rule, but rather from the very people who have so long basked in the gentle glow of paternal protection emanating from that great document.
As problems in society increase without any sign leading a worried populace to remain hopeful that the current trends will reverse, politicians eager for votes have begun to grasp wildly for bills, programs, and amendments to reassure the public that its treasured way of life will not expire while they hold office. These hastily conceived proposals aimed towards curbing school violence, lowering teen pregnancy rates, decreasing drug use, and alleviating a wide variety of other social ills exploit the prejudices of the American people, proposing psychologically appealing quick fixes to complex social problems. Of course, this would be ideal were these programs to have any chance of success, but instead of solving societal problems, these "solutions" simply mask the underlying foundation of problems in American society and effectively cause the disillusionment of millions of people, turning them away from the political process.
Such has been the case with the newly emerging attitude towards the separation of church and state. Many Americans trace the downfall of society to the end of prayer in public schools, and seek to return a spirit of pious reverence for Christian mores to the hordes of apparently godless children roaming the streets of the United States. The crucifixion of former president Bill Clinton for his failure to comply with the Christian commandment against adultery, along with the increasingly powerful support for the Christian right point to the prevalence of this attitude in American society. The recent election of George W. Bush, along with acceptance of his brand of compassionate conservatism further illuminate the willingness of the public to abandon basic freedoms guaranteed by the constitution.
The past election was a divisive force, more or less drawing a line of demarcation between conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans, and out of the chaos emerged George W. Bush, standing as a beacon of conservative values in the midst of a confused electorate One of his first actions was to designate John Ashcroft as his nominee for Attorney-general, proposing that a man firmly committed to the predominance of religion in society enforce a constitution which guarantees the separation of church and state.
In 1996, then Senator Ashcroft attached an amendment to the Welfare Reform Bill, later signed into law by Clinton, which allowed religious organizations to be contracted to provide social services as long as a secular alternative existed. The amendment also allowed these organizations to discriminate when hiring employees, who were paid with tax money, and allowed the organizations to demand that their employees follow moral guidelines based on religious texts both in and out of their offices as a condition of employment.
This amendment foreshadowed President Bush's establishment of the White House Office of Faith-Based Action, which was founded on his belief that "America is now reaping the harvest of epidemic secularism that was unleashed during the Clinton years" and that "the social disasters that worry almost all Americans have their roots in the ruthless extirpation of faith in public life."
Added to Bush's support of the InnerChange Freedom Initiative, begun in the Carol S. Vance unit of the Texas Department of Corrections, which allows inmates who follow the program's Christian tenets safer and more comfortable living conditions than the general population, it is clear that the president is committed to an agenda of increasing the role of the Church in public life.
These programs effectively promote conversion by providing more services for those who profess to be religiously inclined, and, in the case of the Inner-Change Initiative, discriminate against those who are not Christian. Administering aid through religious organizations allows them to use the money to promote only those programs that comply with their religious tenets, and decrease money available for secular alternatives. By allocating money in this manner, the right to abortion and birth control will be substantially endangered. The role of the President is to act as the consummate representative of the entire country's desires, backgrounds, plans, and dreams. Yet by continuing on his current course, George W. Bush not only tramples upon the First Amendment to the constitution, but also alienates a large portion of the population that either does not adhere to organized religion, or feels that the role of the government is not to support religious doctrines, but to provide for the ability of all citizens to worship in the manner they choose. These policies create an environment that limits freedom, causing not decreases in the occurrences of social problems, but a fear and distrust of the government. If politicians truly wish to see an end to violence, teen pregnancy, and other ills, they must not throw their responsibility away to religious organizations, but must instead take up the banner of change and propose real, constitutional solutions.
Catherine Stoner, a senior at Warwick High School, is the winner of the second annual $1,000 essay contest sponsored by Alliance for Tolerance and Freedom, and is reprinted with permission from their quarterly publication, Progressive Voices.
Church and State Separation in Public Schools: An Agreement of Compliance
A PAD Briefing Paper, June 8, 2001 -- Managing a school district is a large responsibility requiring solid, professional experience and a great deal of expertise. However, it is impossible for superintendents to be expert in every aspect of life that impacts a public school. In order to assist superintendents to avoid the unnecessary and almost always heated and very public controversies that erupt about religion in public schools, the Pennsylvania Alliance for Democracy (PAD) has developed a standard agreement, "An Agreement of Compliance with the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States in our Public School." This is a tool to help school administrators remain in compliance with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. A copy of this agreement and its background explanation is attached.
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, graduations ceremonies, or similar events. This can occur 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 known as church and state separation.
For example, Athletes In Action (AIA), a program of Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC), which has a staff of 110,000, were given permission in 1997 by the administrators of Athens and Northeastern School Districts, Pennsylvania, to conduct in-school assemblies aimed at discouraging students from using drugs. The mission of the CCC states in part, "Campus Crusade for Christ is an interdenominational ministry committed to helping take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all nations."
The AIA representatives assured school authorities that AIA would not use this opportunity to engage in evangelical proselytizing. Nevertheless, the AIA presenters did make their personal witnesses to Christ and distributed their religious literature to students during the assemblies. This was a typical bait and switch tactic; promise one thing, do another. Many parents were offended by AIA's tactics and complained to the administrators and to the school directors that AIA had violated their First Amendment rights.
During 2001, ten public school districts in northeastern Pennsylvania, including Athens School District, were asked to let the John Jacob's Power Team, another religious organization, present what was billed as an anti-drug, anti-pregnancy, and anti-suicide program during public school assemblies. The mission of the Power Team is, "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." When the Power Team's proposed, in-school program was reported in the newspapers, there were vociferous objections from many people. Their concerns were communicated to all superintendents in writing, in letters-to-the-editor, and the ACLU of PA wrote a letter to the ten superintendents on this issue counseling them on the risks of First Amendment violations. Collectively, these objections to the proposed Power Team program sparked a heated backlash in the papers and at school board meetings by those who felt prayer in public school was the needed antidote many issues they feel ail schools.
The vocal and very public pressure on school superintendents and school directors from both sides continued for over a month. The amount of time and energy spent by school administrators in ten school districts dealing with this controversy was time most superintendents would much rather have spent focused on their students.
In the future, if a superintendent requires the "Agreement of Compliance" be signed by all outside paid or volunteer speakers who are to be involved in school-sponsored programs, the superintendent will prevent most First Amendment violations from occurring. Furthermore, having speakers and other participants sign the Agreement of Compliance as a standard operating procedure will go a long way toward defusing the concerns of those who are strong supporters of religious liberty as guaranteed in the First Amendment.
Organizations which have endorsed this "Agreement of Compliance" include the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU of PA), Pennsylvania NOW (National Organization for Women), Inc., Pennsylvania Alliance for Democracy (PAD),and Bradford County Alliance for Democracy.
A two page print agreement (for easy back-to-back copying) which includes a background explanation can be opened in a separate window by clicking here. (PDF format, Adobe Acrobat Reader necessary, free download available); or may be obtained in print by contacting PAD at the address below.
Published by Pennsylvania Alliance for Democracy (PAD), PO Box 366, Harrisburg, PA 17108-3056