Saturday, January 18, 2003
Q. What group, if any, do you represent when you attend the middle school?
A. I am the youth leader representing Euzoa Bible Church. I also represent a part of the religious community in Steamboat, because this issue affects us all.
Q. What is the purpose of visiting with students during lunch? Has there been any discussion of religion or faith during these visits?
A. We attend lunch an average of three times a month. We usually have one to three adults promoting events and building relationships with students, just like the city Parks and Recreation department, the Winter Sports Club, Boy Scouts, U.S. Army, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps and other youth-based organizations.
We consider it a great honor to be in this school and have the opportunity to make a positive impact on students and their families.
There have not been any discussions on religion or faith during these visits.
The school board policy does not allow us to have these discussions; we take very seriously the rules and regulations set before us.
Q. What is your response to the argument that your presence violates the separation of church and state?
A. Our presence does not violate separation of church and state because we do not talk about church or religion when we visit the school.
The issue is the state, or school, cannot teach religion or give favoritism to one; it has to be impartial.
The argument that our presence violates the separation of church and state, if pursued, could lead to the belief that people with any religious convictions could not teach, coach or even volunteer in our schools.
That is a slippery slope and is not the intent of this law.
All community groups, whether religious or not, have equal access to schools as is written under the F-15 policy handed down by the Steamboat Springs School Board.
I support that policy and understand that religious groups cannot gain more access nor have less access than other groups from the community.
Q. Much has been made of the McDonald's issue. What exactly happened?
A. As stated at the school board meeting, some of the students in our youth ministry gave money to one of our adult leaders and asked her if she could bring them McDonald's during school lunch.
After this occurred, the school administration and I decided this was not a good idea. It has not happened again.
Q. The concept of religion in our public schools has been debated for years. What is your philosophy on the issue?
A. My philosophy is the same as the Department of Education on this issue. In 1994, U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley began the Partnership for Family Involvement in Education with 40 organizations. Today, close to 6,000 groups are a part of this dynamic and growing effort.
It encourages the growing partnership efforts between our nation's public schools and families, community groups, faith-based communities and employers.
Former President Bill Clinton stated, "For more than 200 years, the First Amendment has protected our religious freedoms and allowed many faiths to flourish in our homes, in our workplace and in our schools. Clearly understood and sensibly applied, it works."
Students need good role models. Adults and peers who have good moral values and character can be excellent role models.
Many times religion plays a huge part in developing good moral values and character.
Visit the Web site www.ed.gov for more info regarding this.
Q. Clearly you support the school district's policy. Jeff Troeger mentioned support for the policy might not be so strong if a youth cleric named Mohammed came into the school. Are there certain groups you feel shouldn't be allowed in the schools? Who would they be?
A. If someone came in under different religious beliefs, this would be an excellent opportunity for the parents to teach their children what they believe and why.
I want everyone to know the school administration has been doing an excellent job of making sure every outside group that comes in to the school follows policy F-15.