Down south in Olympia they’re fighting over “Festivus” and arguing about Christmas displays. And up to our north in Sequim, you’ll read in the story below about a Jewish dad who is feeling a little funny about a “power” show at the middle school during which a Christian dude ripped a license plate in half.
Tis the season …
-from the Peninsula Daily News
By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
SEQUIM — Karl Wood, a Jewish father of four, found out the night of Nov. 19 from another Sequim parent that the Power Team, a traveling evangelical Christian group, would visit his children’s schools the next morning.
He pulled his children out of the assemblies at Sequim Middle School and Sequim High School on Nov. 20 and Helen Haller Elementary on Nov. 21.
Wood went to the Sequim School Board meeting Thursday night to ask why the district had not notified him directly about the Power Team’s presentations.
“If a Christian program is going to be offered in the school system, parents need to know,” Wood told the board.
“My understanding was that the Power Team did its presentations in a neutral manner,” board president Sarah Bedinger said.
She asked Superintendent Bill Bentley to look into whether the assemblies were in compliance with district policy.
Bentley said nothing on the subject during Thursday’s board meeting.
But Patra Boots, the district’s director of instructional support, said the Power Team’s school-assembly message is a strictly secular one, “about making positive choices and about drug and alcohol abstinence.”
District communications director Annette Hanson added that the team’s appearances were listed in advance on the district Web site, www.sequim.k12.wa.us/sequim, broadcast on school reader boards and noted in the Sequim High School newsletter mailed to parents.
Feats of strength
During the presentation at the high school, Power Team’s Jamie Morrison and Matt Dopson performed feats of strength: Morrison ripped a license plate and a phone book in half with his hands, and Dopson blew up a red hot-water bottle until it burst.
That’s just to get kids’ attention, Morrison said later.
After the gym full of teenagers finished cheering, Morrison borrowed a $20 bill from a student. He proceeded to stomp on it and use it to wipe his sweaty armpits.
“How much is this worth now?” Morrison asked. Crowd response: still $20.
“Life has a way of stomping on you.
“You might feel right now as if you’ve been drug across the armpit of life,” he went on.
But all that abuse “does not lower your value any. It doesn’t mean you can’t reach your goals and dreams in life.”
Morrison then spoke of President-elect Barack Obama, who was abandoned at an early age by his father.
As another example, he described his own childhood with an alcoholic father who abused his mother.
He grew up in a small Missouri town where everybody knew his family’s troubles.
But children like him and Obama made choices, Morrison said, that defied their personal histories.
They chose not to quit pursuing their goals, and they chose not to abuse alcohol and other drugs.
By contrast, other teens made choices that led to sexually transmitted diseases and unwed pregnancy.
“Your choices today will shape your future,” he told the crowd.
Morrison made no mention of Christianity during his half-hour presentation.
“We don’t share our personal faith in school assemblies,” he said in an interview. “But our faith drives us.”
The Power Team, which gave 672 school presentations last year, also visits churches around the country.
When the group visited Sequim’s public schools in November, it also scheduled separate evening performances to promote its Christian message, said Rich Hay, pastor of the Olympic Bible Fellowship.
Hay said his church — along with Sequim Valley Foursquare, King’s Way Foursquare and the Sequim Worship Center — sponsored all of the team’s Sequim appearances.
Message ‘about morals’
At Thursday’s school board meeting, Sequim High School student Brianna Gilles, 16, said the Power Team’s message was simply “about morals.”
Her father, Ron Gilles, added that he believes the Power Team’s message could have come from a non-Christian group, and it’s a message he wants teens to hear.
“I’m a 1980 graduate of Sequim High School. We lost kids every year to drinking and drugs,” he said.
But Wood, who said he attended part of the group’s middle school assembly, believes the Power Team mixes in “very subtle, decidedly Christian elements” into its presentation, although he had no specific examples.
“Having been raised Christian and having converted to Judaism, I suppose I’m more sensitive,” he said in an interview on Friday.
“I have to give Rev. Hay credit, though. He came up to me in the hall after we left the meeting and asked for what could be edited out. Honestly, I had forgotten. I told him I’d spend some time working on remembering.”
As for the School Board’s response, “it’s a start,” Wood said.