Was Talk Out Of Bounds?

Letters to the editor

April 19, 1992

Editor's note: Former football player Herman Weaver recently gave several anti-drug talks with religious overtones to middle and high school students. School officials said they were unaware Weaver's talk would be religious in nature and that he would attempt to proselytize the audience and hand out cards seeking to sign up students to receive religious material. Students had no choice; they had to attend the assembly.

We have been asking readers if they believe it was appropriate for a speaker at a mandatory assembly, whose sole topic was supposed to be about drugs, to inject religious material into that speech. Would it have been better for students to have been advised in advance and given the option of not attending? Here are some of their replies:

From: Steven Pollard

Westminster

No.

Have we become so narrow-minded that we have to censor the right of someone sharing whatworked (works) for them?

Let's share with others whatever has helped us.

*

From: James M. Mason

Westminster

Herman Weaver's talk was appropriate and necessary.

You, the media, should not be trying to create a problem.

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From: Marcia J. Reinhart

Westminster

Yes, religious material is appropriate -- students need positive role models. And for a sports figure to say he believes in more than money and sex is very positive.

Please realize that Jeff Griffith lost the election. I am tired of him trying to stir up the public on issues just to get his name in the public eye.

The subjectof Herman Weaver is overdone. It is time to lay the battle ax down.

There are many good things that came out of this assembly, one of which is that my daughter realized the price some people must pay fortheir faith.

These attacks are not helping the students or the teachers in the affected schools.

*

From: Michele Gramens

Westminster

He was absolutely, positively out of bounds.

School is for learning, not preaching. My family does not subscribe to the Christian faith and I would greatly resent any religious dogma being shoved down my children's throats.

I take the separation of church andstate very seriously and that includes any religious activities in the school setting, including a morning prayer or student-organized prayer meetings.

Mr. Weaver could have stuck to his topic without the injection of his religious beliefs. If he was intent on proselytizing to youngsters, a meeting in a church would have been more appropriate.

Just imagine the outcry of these Bible-thumping "What can it hurt?" parents if a rabbi or a Buddhist monk were to expound on the benefits of Judaism or Buddhism to the same group of children!

Keepit in the church and out of the schools, period.

*

From: Marcia W. Klein

Eldersburg

The talk was out of bounds.

There are enough programs around with anti-drug messages that do not contain religious references. I feel that this talk had no place in the public schools and I feel that the students were taken advantage of.

I further feel that Joseph Mish, in scheduling this program, took unfair advantage of his position on the school board. He was aware of the contents of the program and was quoted in your paper as saying that he knew there would be controversy, so he didn't say anything about the content ahead of time.

Separation of church and state has long been an understood tenet of our country, and we must not jeopardize thisprinciple.

*

From: Howard Shalowitz

Randallstown

After reading some of the responses to Mr. Jeff Griffith's article regardingthe Sports World Ministries' assemblies presented to some Carroll County public schools, I felt I needed to respond.

I have not read his letter, but I was present at the assembly since I am a teacher at East Middle School. It was a blatant and gross violation of the separation of church and state. It was inappropriate and unacceptable for a public school.

The first half of the program presented by Mr. Herman Weaver was interesting and enjoyable, but then he started preaching. There is a line between acceptable and unacceptable.

The story of his daughter's injury, where she was supposedly healed through divine intervention, was borderline, but when he started the "God loves you," he crossed over the line and continued to stay across it.

By the end of the program, when the students were filling out the cards commenting on the program, his "Do you want God in your lives?" and "Do you want God to be with you?" were blatantly ignoring the law.

He was also trying to recruit, and how he was permitted to continue with a second show was beyond me.

After speaking at West Middle on Thursday, March 5, 1992, Mr. Weaver should not have been allowed to speak at East Middle. I do hope that this will not be repeated at any other public school.

We were told before the program that this was not going to be religious, but it definitely was. I hope that theCarroll County school board will not allow a repeat of this type of performance, because the one we attended was illegal.

*

From: Dan Bridgewater

Westminster

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