Scranton School District: Stop funding religion

Getty Images/Patrick Herrera
Getty Images/Patrick Herrera

The Scranton School District recently entered into a lease agreement with the Scranton Diocese stipulating that school activity not violate Church teaching.

Sarah Hofius Hall, writing for the Scranton-based The Times-Tribunereports that on Monday — March 10, 2014 — members of the Scranton School District school board unanimously voted to approve a $3000/month lease agreement allowing the district to use property owned by the Diocese of Scranton to potentially house elementary school students. Further, a portion of the lease stipulates the school district must refrain from “any activity that violates any teachings or policies which in any way is contrary to the teachings of the Roman Catholic faith and the Diocese of Scranton.”

Taxpayers from the Scranton area — through this lease agreement — are compelled to fund the Diocese of Scranton because their tax monies go to the Scranton school district. Worse yet, the lease agreement gives the Diocese of Scranton veto power not only over classroom content, but also over extra-curricular activities taking place at the school district, content presented at school assemblies, conduct of students, and all school policies; anything deemed “contrary to the teachings of the Roman Catholic faith and the Diocese of Scranton” by Diocese of Scranton officials may not be permitted within the building leased by the Scranton School District and owned by the Diocese of Scranton.

The Scranton School District should not be entering into financial agreements with the Diocese of Scranton. In doing so, the consciences of taxpayers — Christians, Jews, Muslims, people of no faith, and people of diverse religious backgrounds — are violated and children are subject to the whims of the Diocese of Scranton.

Section three of Pennsylvania’s state constitution states, “All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences; no man can of right be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship or to maintain any ministry against his consent; no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience, and no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious establishments or modes of worship.” This should be respected; Scranton area taxpayers should not be supporting the Diocese of Scranton through the lease agreement unanimously approved by the Scranton School District’s school board.

Getty Images/Christine Glade
Getty Images/Christine Glade

Scranton’s school district must reconsider their lease agreement with the Diocese of Scranton and terminate their agreement immediately. The separation of church and state should be preserved; no taxpayer should be compelled to fund a religious body and no public school district should allow a religious body to have control over a public school’s district’s decisions.

Join me in contacting administration and/or Board of Education members within the Scranton School District:

BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Kathleen McGuigan – President ~ kathleen.mcguigan@scrsd.org

Mark McAndrew – Vice President ~ mark.mcandrew@scrsd.org

Robert Casey ~ robert.casey@scrsd.org

Kyle Donahue ~ kyle.donahue@scrsd.org

Cy Douaihy ~ cy.douaihy@scrsd.org

Armand Martinelli ~ armand.martinelli@scrsd.org

Carol Oleski ~ carol.oleski@scrsd.org

Dr. Lyn Ruane ~ lyn.ruane@scrsd.org

Robert Sheridan ~ bob.sheridan@scrsd.org
ADMINISTRATION

Superintendent of Schools – William F. King – 570-348-3465 – bill.king@scrsd.org

Supervisor of Elementary Education – Jessica Leitzel – 570-348-3429 – jessica.leitzel@scrsd.org

Curriculum Director – Chris Mazzino – 570-348-3432 – chris.mazzino@scrsd.org

Sound off on Scranton School District’s Facebook page.

Comment on the newspaper article concerning this issue.

 

Consider authoring the following e-mail and/or using this message as a template for phone conversations/voicemail messages.

I oppose the recent lease agreement the Scranton School District signed with The Diocese of Scranton. The lease agreement is problematic because — through it — taxpayer monies and funds belonging to the Scranton School District will be transferred to the Diocese of Scranton; taxpayers, against their will, have their consciences violated in supporting a religious body – violating section three of the Pennsylvania State Constitution which states “no man can of right be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship or to maintain ministry against his consent; no human authority can in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience, and no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious establishments or modes of worship.”

The recent lease agreement is additionally problematic because, through its clause not allowing the school district to engage in activity “that violates any teachings or policies which in any way is contrary to the teachings of the Roman Catholic faith and the Diocese of Scranton” the Diocese of Scranton has veto power over classroom content, extracurricular activities, school assemblies, conduct of students, and district policies.

The Scranton School District should immediately end its lease agreement with the Diocese of Scranton and, in the future, refrain from entering into agreements financially supporting religious bodies and/or giving authoritative power to religious entities. Parents and students within the Scranton area are of diverse religious faiths and no religious backgrounds. The separation of church and state should be preserved. Individuals may freely support the Diocese of Scranton, but should not be compelled to do so through taxpayer funds. Individuals may live in accordance with guidelines set by the Diocese of Scranton, but should not be compelled to do so through authoritative power over a school district.

Justin Vacula

Justin Vacula hosts the Stoic Philosophy Podcast; serves as co-organizer and spokesperson for the Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA) Freethought Society; and has hosted monthly Stoic Philosophy discussion groups for the Humanist Association of Greater Philadelphia.

He has appeared on and hosted various radio shows and podcasts; participated in formal debates and discussions; was a guest speaker for college-level courses; was featured in local, national, and international news; and has been invited to speak at various national, local, and statewide events.

Vacula received bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Psychology, a minor in Professional Writing, and the distinguished W.A. Kilburn Memorial Award for Philosophy from King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He is currently living in the Scranton, PA area attending Marywood University’s graduate-level Mental Health Counseling program and has worked with the Arc of Luzerne County’s Transition to Community Employment program as a teacher’s assistant and job coach alongside adult learners with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

He also plays poker; volunteers as a member of the website and media team for the Greyhawk Reborn Dungeons & Dragons campaign while playing at events in the Eastern United States; and enjoys metal music.