Separation Between Church And State

  • Board: Lane Tech assemblies not faith-based

    2/3/2006 

    By Leslie Baldacci 

    Chicago Sun-Times



    Lane Tech Principal Keith Foley did not cross the line between church and state by allowing two character education assemblies last week, according to a Chicago Board of Education investigation sparked by a student complaint.

    Meanwhile, senior George Soto, the whistleblower in the case, on Thursday started serving a five-day suspension for a cellphone violation. Soto charged that he was the victim of "harassment." A board attorney said the incidents are not connected.

    After listening to audio tapes of the assemblies, attended by nearly all of the school's 4,300 students, and viewing video segments featured during the presentation, Board of Education general counsel Patrick Rocks said Thursday "there is no religious content."

    "The allegation that the assembly was faith-based is unfounded," Rocks said. "We don't believe there was any wrongdoing."

    Confers with ACLU

    Soto, 18, complained that two 50-minute schoolwide assemblies featuring presentations by the Seven Project, a ministry of the Assemblies of God, violated constitutional prohibitions against religion in public schools. At the end of the assembly Jan. 11, members of the Seven Project, an evangelical Christian group, invited students to attend a meeting at the school that evening. The evening event was a faith-based "rally," with music, pizza and giveaways of prizes such as iPod Shuffles and PlayStations.

    "There is a very short reference at the end of the audio -- if it lasts 30 seconds, I'd be surprised -- that invites students to come to the event after school hours," Rocks said. "They make clear that it is voluntary, and they say it is faith-based. They were clear about that."

    A few students, including Soto, did not attend either assembly, Rocks said. "He requested that he not attend. He was accommodated. That is consistent with board policy," Rocks said.

    Soto said he was slapped with the five-day suspension for possessing a cellphone while serving a detention at the school last Saturday for cutting Spanish class on several dates last semester. Lane Tech students must have a "contract," a written permission slip signed by a parent, on file at the school to carry a cellphone. But camera phones are banned. Soto said he returned a signed contract, but it wasn't on file.

    "There is no connection between the cellphone suspension" and Soto's earlier complaint, Rocks said.

    Rocks said he would craft a letter today notifying Soto that his complaint was denied. Soto, meanwhile, was conferring with the American Civil Liberties Union.

  • Ohio School Drops Daily Prayer After Newspaper Inquiry

    A public school district in Ohio has agreed to stop daily recitation of the Lord’s Prayer over the public-address system after a newspaper questioned the legality of the practice.

    Officials at Mineral Ridge High School were in clear violation of the Supreme Court’s 1962 and 1963 rulings striking down school-sponsored prayer. The school opened each day with recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by the Lord’s Prayer.

    A local newspaper, the Warren Tri­bune Chronicle, raised the issue after an anonymous parent complained. Super­intendent Michael Hanshaw reluctantly discontinued the practice, reported the Associated Press.

    “It was a very valued tradition we continued for many years,” Hanshaw said. “We tried to maintain it for students and the community, faculty and staff, but we just can’t do it.” Hanshaw said the district would look into alternatives, such as a moment of silence.

    In Chicago, meanwhile, the Board of Education is investigating whether two assemblies billed as “character education” at Lane Technical High School may have gone too far and promoted religion.

    George Soto, an 18-year-old senior at the school, called school board lawyers after learning that the two 50-minute assemblies were sponsored by the Seven Project, a ministry of the Assemblies of God denomination.

    Soto, who is Roman Catholic, said he believes religious instruction belongs in the home and church. He skipped the event, sitting in the principal’s office with four other students.

    Karen Lewis, a chemistry teacher who attend the assemblies, told the Chicago Sun-Times, “It seemed to me they were recruiting.”

    http://www.au.org/church-state/march-2006-church-state/people-events/ohio-school-drops-daily-prayer-after-newspaper

  • Demand the Separation of Church and State at Lane Tech HS in Chicago

    January 19, 2005

    Lane Tech College Prep High School is one of the top schools in Illinois. And this is what's going on at this public school: abstinence-only sex "education" and a recent holiday program featured songs like "Jesus is the Reason for the Season," all this enforced by the will of a Principal who keeps a copy of the Bible on his desk. And most recently, two mandatory assemblies were held featuring a group called the Seven Project, which marks a very significant (and again, mandatory) opening of the door to evangelical Christianity in this public school. 

    The Seven Project, which is a youth ministry funded by the Assembly of God, USA (an evangelical denomination) claims to have no religious content to the in-school assemblies. Yet they teach abstinence-only, which is obviously religiously derived and they promote another event in the evening where students are asked to accept Jesus as Lord. 

    The Seven Projects students at Lane Tech give the real deal on the organization's website (thesevenproject.org):

    (Under the heading "Happy New Year, Lane Tech High! Tell us about your Seven event!")

    "WE LOVE YOU ALL and will continue to wear our shirts every Thursday until the end of the school year so that people know they can still come to us for information and that it's not too late. After the 7 Project, we have all unanimously agreed that we have gained more confidence in ourselves (socially) . . . now we can talk to just about anyone about God, Jesus, the 7 Project and related things without hesitation. We now know what we are talking about and we feel strengthened through this. It has not only helped guide our school into a light of hope, but has helped us Christians be more bold, which is hard for many to do. Yet you accomplished it all with the help of God. Thank you!!!" 

    "The Lord was alive in the school and there couldn't of been anything better."

    " . . . whether they accepted Christ or not, the message was heard, the seed was planted, and that is what matters the most. Now its your job Lane Tech believers! go get em!" 

    A group of five students refused to go to the assembly. One student, George Soto, called the Chicago Public School Board lawyers and told the Chicago Sun Times, "We had some concerns about separation between church and state, and we don't like these kinds of assemblies being pushed on us . . . I'm a Roman Catholic, and I believe in Christ, but I think it's something that should stay outside of school." Since that time, he has faced a sweep of personal attacks, including most viciously by student followers of the 7 Project. 

    And George is being told by the Chicago Public School Board that the Seven Project claims there was no religious content in the assembly, and he is being brushed aside and marginalized.

    World Can't Wait Chicago is asking people to call the Chicago Public School Board Investigator at 773-553-2130 and demand NO ENFORCED RELIGION! We support George Soto and his battle for the separation of church and state! 

    This promotion of Christian Fundamentalism in a top-level public high school is hardly a rarity. It's happening in the context of a whole remaking of society led at the top levels of government, as represented in the Bush Administration. As the Call also states, " Your government is moving each day closer to a theocracy, where a narrow and hateful brand of Christian fundamentalism will rule." The President believes he's "on a mission from God" that legitimizes waging a war on the world that could last the whole lifetime of people currently in high school. Another Supreme Court Justice is about to be confirmed who gives heart and strength to straight- up theocratic fascists like Jerry Falwell, and plans to greatly extend the power of a criminal President who is guilty of spying and much more. 

    What happens when it becomes legal to bring Christian Fundamentalism into the schools- even illegal not to?! 

    The future is unwritten. Which one we get is up to us.

    http://dir.groups.yahoo.com/group/anti_vrwc/message/2213?l=1

  • No Forced Religion at Lane Tech!

    Your government is moving each day closer to a theocracy, where a narrow and hateful brand of Christian fundamentalism will rule.

    There has been a battle shaping up at Lane Tech College Prep High School over moves by the administration and group called ' The 7 Project' to implement a Christian Fundamentalist program into a public school in Illinois and the students who are resisting these theocratic moves and what they represent.  Click below for more and check worldcantwait.org in the future for more in-depth articles and updates surrounding Lane Tech.

    Below are excerpts of emails from World Can't Wait organizers in Chicago.  Check the website for interviews and statements from World Can't Wait.

    Lane Tech College Prep High School is one of the top schools in Illinois. And this is what's going on at this public school: abstinence-only sex 'education', a recent holiday program featured songs like 'Jesus is the Reason for the Season', and this is enforced by the will of a Principal who keeps a copy of the Bible on his desk. And most recently, two mandatory assemblies were held featuring a group called the Seven Project, which marks a very significant door-opening to evangelical Christianity in this public school.

    At Lane Tech, a group of five students refused to go to the assembly. One student called the Chicago Public School Board lawyers and told the Chicago Sun Times, 'We had some concerns about separation between church and state, and we don't like these kinds of assemblies being pushed on us) I'm a Roman Catholic, and I believe in Christ, but I think it's something that should stay outside of school.'

    Since that time, he has faced a sweep of personal attacks, including most viciously by student followers of the 7 Project:

    'As for the 7 Project members, some were upset today over the fact that a guy got the media all over it for an investigation, but we had a meeting after school and we ended up extremely happy. I praised God because we all remembered the Scripture that was pointed out that said "the thief comes to kill, steal, and destroy" and we were like: This guy has turned into the thief. I let everyone know that I was happy because conflict/retalliation like this is just a compliment telling us that we did our job. It's not a battle without a fight or an enemy. I recommend the 7 Project for any school-- nobody can stop God's clever & wise plan because He knows best. All this stuff is perfectly legal...even though the media wants to show it differently.                    

    'The devil was angry, though: he got some students to get legal and try [to] sue the school and call a judge and whatnot.......the problem is, it was all LEGAL! Once again, the Lord triumphs over the faults of man. But we praise the Lord for everything.'

    According to the Sun Times last week, the stakes have just gotten higher: the Chicago Public School Board has declared there was no violation. The student taking a stand, George Soto, has come under further fire: he was recently given a five-day suspension for a supposed "cell phone violation," even though he says he turned in his permission slip to use his cell phone; the school is claiming it is not on record.

    The Board claims that there was no religious content to the all-school assemblies held by a group called The Seven Project, and that they were not in fact faith-based. This is absurd. Take one look at the response from Lane Tech students on the Seven Project's website  and you can see the reality behind the secular veneer:

    "WE LOVE YOU ALL and will continue to wear our shirts every Thursday until the end of the school year so that people know they can still come to us for information and that it's not too late. After the 7 Project, we have all unanimously agreed that we have gained more confidence in ourselves (socially) . . . now we can talk to just about anyone about God, Jesus, the 7 Project and related things without hesitation. We now know what we are talking about and we feel strengthened through this. It has not only helped guide our school into a light of hope, but has helped us Christians be more bold, which is hard for many to do. Yet you accomplished it all with the help of God. Thank you!!!"

    "The Lord was alive in the school and there couldn't of been anything better."

    '. . . whether they accepted Christ or not, the message was heard, the seed was planted, and that is what matters the most. Now it's your job Lane Tech believers! Go get' em!" 

    A major theme of the Seven Project's assemblies is abstinence, which is what passes for sex "education" at Lane Tech and an increasing number of schools across the country. It is well-documented that abstinence-only sex-ed's only rationale for existing is religious; besides that, it is well-documented that students left with abstinence only sex "education" will engage in more risky behavior based on ignorance of their own bodies and how to protect them, leading to way more HIV cases and pregnancies.

    World Can't Wait Chicago is asking you to call the Chicago School Board Investigator at (773) 553- 2130.

    Let them know that you object to the investigator's erroneous conclusion that there was "no violation" of the constitutionally required separation of church and state. Demand that students at Lane Tech (or any public school) not be punished for exercising their rights. And please urge that George Soto's suspension be removed from his record so he does not face any future risks for speaking out.

    http://www.worldcantwait.net/index.php/youth-and-students-site-map-202/1084-no-forced-religion-at-lane-tech

  • Religious Group's Assembly Investigated

    January 12, 2006

    BY CATHLEEN FALSANI Religion Reporter 
    The Chicago Board of Education is investigating whether two "character education" assemblies held at Lane Technical High School on Wednesday violated the separation of church and state after receiving complaints from students.

    Lane Tech senior George Soto, 18, called School Board lawyers earlier this week after teachers announced that on Wednesday morning, two 50-minute, school-wide assemblies would be held featuring presentations by the Seven Project, a ministry of the Assemblies of God, an evangelical Christian denomination.

    "We had some concerns about separation between church and state, and we don't like these kinds of assemblies being pushed on us," said Soto, who sat out the assemblies with four other students in the principal's office. "I'm a Roman Catholic, and I believe in Christ, but I think it's something that should stay outside of school," he said.

    'God was never mentioned'

    In an e-mail message sent Tuesday, lawyers for the Chicago schools warned Lane Tech Principal Keith Foley that if there were any religious content in the assemblies, they should be canceled, and that students should be told attendance was optional, said Peter Cunningham, spokesman for Chicago public schools. No such announcement was made, said Soto, Foley and others.

    "Because he did receive an official e-mail telling him not to hold these meetings if they are religious, and, secondly, because we have received some complaints or some calls about this, we are going to investigate the situation . . . to make sure he didn't cross the line," Cunningham said. "If he did, we will figure out the appropriate sanction or reprimand."

    But Foley insists there was nothing religious mentioned during the Seven Project's assemblies, which nearly all of the school's 4,300 students attended.

    "The speakers really talked about things, for example, about never giving up, quoting Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Sir Edmund Hillary," said Foley, a self-described evangelical Christian who has been principal for 61/2 years, and before that was vice principal for a decade. "God was never mentioned. Religion was never mentioned."

    According to the Seven Project Web site, the ministry is designed to provide teenagers "a way of life with true hope," through multi-media presentations at school assemblies where topics such as suicide, depression, drug abuse, abstinence, racism and peer pressure are discussed. Typically, in an evening session, the Seven Project offers a "seventh solution" in the form of a spiritual message.

    'They were recruiting'

    On Wednesday night, the Seven Project held a faith-based "rally" at Lane Tech with music, free pizza and giveaways of prizes such as iPod Shuffles and PlayStations, according to Soto and Karen Lewis, a chemistry teacher at Lane Tech who is also the member of the executive board of the Chicago Teachers Union.

    Lewis, who attended the assemblies Wednesday, agreed that nothing explicitly religious was said during the presentation. Still, she thought it was, at least implicitly, an advertisement for the evening's explicitly spiritual rally. "It seemed to me they were recruiting," she said.

    Foley disagreed. "The only thing they did say -- and it was one sentence -- was that anyone who would like to is welcome to come back tonight," he said.

    Soto and Lewis claim that Foley, who keeps a Bible on the desk in his school office, promotes his Christian beliefs through programs such the Lane Tech's annual Christmas program -- where last year the school's gospel choir performed "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" -- and the school's abstinence-only sex education curriculum.

    Foley said he believes anything other than an abstinence-only approach to sex education sends students confusing mixed messages.