Group's worry unfounded

2011-08-17T12:00:00Z Group's worry unfounded Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier
August 17, 2011 12:00 pm

When the Cedar Falls Board of Education signed off on a deal to use space in a church building for preschool programming, it could never have envisioned a letter of protest from an outside entity.

Then came the letter and email from Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Wisconsin-based nonprofit group Freedom From Religion Foundation.

"This is exactly the kind of entanglement that the founders of our country did not want to have," Gaylor said. "...This deal is at taxpayers' expense and it is unacceptable in our opinion."

Last week, the board approved a $61,940 construction contract to remodel space inside Kaio Church, at 815 Orchard Drive, located next door to Southdale Elementary.

The project includes converting a janitor's closet into a handicap-accessible restroom, adding two preschool-age handicap accessible restrooms, installing emergency exits in the classroom spaces and other improvements that would bring the space up to code.

"We think there should be an uproar in the community over this plan," Gaylor said. "Tax money should not go to further religious aims."

It's not. It's going to expand space for the district's preschool programming.

"To my knowledge there is no basis in fact for what the letter is alleging," said Superintendent David Stoakes. "Separation has to do with programming, not the facility. We are not going to be propagating any religion in our preschool program."

It's not uncommon for churches to be in close proximity of elementary school buildings. That's how neighborhoods were formed. Church buildings generally have spaces that can be utilized by the community. It's also relatively common for districts to enter into property agreements with churches, or to make code-conforming improvements to any properties they use - like the city-owned building that housed the district's alternative school for many years.

Gaylor also voiced her concern that the students will be exposed to religious paraphernalia, which will get "mixed up in their minds."

We assume the district wouldn't have heard from Gaylor had it come to an agreement to lease space from a bar or a strip joint. The building next door to Southdale, however, happened to be a church.

It matters little what kind of church, or what denomination, because it's simply space the district can use for legitimate preschool programming.

To us, the agreement shines as a bright example of a community and business partnership.

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(2) Comments

  1. sensil
    Report Abuse
    sensil - August 19, 2011 11:24 am
    These issues will best be resolved by respectful discussion and complete reporting - not by selective presentation of facts that amounts to a misrepresentation of the issue. This editorial fails to point out two of the most relevant parts of the issue. First that Iowa's Constitution clearly and purposefully states that no person shall be "compelled to attend any place of worship." Well, what is a Church if not a place of worship? And we would be compelling kids to go there. Important, I think.
    Second Iowa's Constitution clearly and purposefully states that no person shall be "compelled to ... pay ... taxes for building or repairing places of worship." Again, important, I think. And completely omitted from this editorial.
    These are important issues, that should be dealt with in a sober minded way, with due regard to the protections offered by the state Constitution. Iowans are not well served by opinion leaders who seek to influence through presentation of distorted argument.
  2. IowanAtheist
    Report Abuse
    IowanAtheist - August 19, 2011 9:32 am
    How is the worry "unfounded"? The worry is that tax payer money will be given to a church -- no one is even contesting that fact.
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