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Goodbye Jesus

My Old High School


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Chicago Sun-Times


Religious group's assembly investigated


January 12, 2006



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.


When I was a student there, Foley was the Vice-Principal, and every dumb churchie meeting and prayer circle was lead by him. Needless to say, I've listened to his garbage more than a few times. It all pisses me off, but props to the kid who went to the school board. I guess there really are kids who go there for more than just the weed and ecstacy.

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In These Times magazine recently had an illuminating article about the "character education" movement... just as "Intelligent Design" is a front for Christian creationism, "Character Education" is a front behind which more fundie Christians are hiding.


The reason it stuck in my mind is that John McCain was in my town last week promoting his latest book... Character Is Destiny. Wouldn't mean much to Joe on the street, probably, but "character" has always been a HUGE focus at Bob Jones... the word is certainly "loaded language" for fundies.


A big irony/question that struck me about the article is, why would a fundie want to establish a "Kingdom of God" on earth, in direct opposition to John 18:36? I wonder if anyone ever asked Gothard or his minions to explain the dichotomy.

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