Letter to Editor published, comments follow

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The Times-Tribune published my letter to the editor concerning the alarming lease agreement the Scranton School District signed with The Diocese of Scranton

I submitted a letter to the editor — following up on a March 12 piece I authored on this website — in response to an article from The Times-Tribune objecting to the $3000/month lease agreement the Scranton School District signed with The Diocese of Scranton.

The lease is problematic not only because taxpayer monies will support the Diocese of Scranton, but also because of a stipulation barring the district from — at least in the building mentioned in the lease — engaging 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.”

My letter to the editor follows:

Abandon lease

Editor: 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 money 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 3 of the 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 has veto power over classroom content, extracurricular activities, school assemblies, conduct of students, and district policies.

The school district should end its lease agreement with the diocese and, in the future, refrain from entering into agreements financially supporting religious bodies or giving authoritative power to religious entities. Parents and students within the Scranton area are of diverse religious faiths and 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, but should not be compelled to do so through authoritative power over a school district.

 

Comments in response to my letter to the editor are thankfully generally supportive:

  • How about the Scranton School District paying the NON PROFIT catholic church rent…. Only in Scranton!!! Armpit of America!!!
  • Excellent letter Mr. Vacula. It is great that the school board signed away the students right to an education that includes scientific data to support it. Instead of hearing that, studies will need to tow the line of what was allegedly written in a book 2000 years ago, and was interpreted numerous times over the years.
  • The real question is how much will the district be paying for renovations of a building that is not owned by the taxpayers?
  • I do believe the clause is illegal.. Tenants have more rights than Landlords, I can not dictate my tenants religious beliefs, nor lack of them, nor can I bar my tenants from associating with anybody….
  • The real challenge here is that the school board said they did not need the building; they are paying the church rent AND Maintenance (probably costs far more than rent.

 

Feel free to comment on my letter to the editor and, as always, feel free to comment below. Engage in some activism of your own by contacting Scranton School District officials — making telephone calls or sending e-mails — using the information I have provided.

 

Justin Vacula

Justin Vacula hosts the Stoic Philosophy Podcast; serves as co-organizer and spokesperson for the Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA) Freethought Society; and hosts 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 pursuing a degree in Marywood University’s graduate-level Mental Health Counseling program and formerly worked for 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 and plays at events in the Eastern United States; and enjoys metal music.