Henrico County Public Schools in Virginia are having meetings with religious leaders. One already took place and another is happening next month:
Henrico County Public Schools will host two upcoming breakfast meetings for local faith-based leaders. Superintendent Dr. Patrick Russo will welcome the religious leaders and directly encourage their organizations to partner with Henrico County Public Schools.
Henrico County Public Schools plans to work closely with a growing number of local faith-based organizations to take the school division to the next level of greatness. Organizations can serve in the areas of volunteerism, mentorships, incentive programs, school events, goods, and monetary service.
During the breakfasts, guests will have the opportunity to hear from religious leaders and principals who currently partner together.
Let’s says that evangelism isn’t one of the goals here.
One reader admits:
I am not sure how I feel about this. On one hand, I want religion completely out of my kids’ school. On the other hand, I don’t mind if they want to donate volunteers and goods, as long as we don’t owe them anything for it.
I don’t know anything about this district. But it sounds like a well-intentioned, but potentially dangerous plan. While the religious leaders may have the best of intentions, it’s all too easy for proselytizing to sneak in. If they want to volunteer or give money, I don’t mind. But the mentorships and incentive programs? I’d want more information…
Instead of posting something a few days ago, I contacted Mychael Dickerson, the executive director of communications and community outreach for the district, for an explanation of how they know that no church/state violations will occur and which faiths are represented in the mix.
This is what he told me (via email):
Thanks for your email and opportunity to respond to your concerns. I want to assure you that there is no problem or violation of church and state with the breakfasts we are holding with Faith Based Leaders. We sent invitations to all the churches, mosques, temples listed and that we could find. We also reached out to the interfaith organizations to try to reach out as much as possible. We are asking these community members to look for opportunities to tutor, volunteer and to simply partner with our schools. We do the same for the business community and anyone else who would like to help us provide the best education possible for our kids. We do a background check on all volunteers and community partners, including those in the faith based community, and we make them go through an orientation. The orientation with the faith based partners, includes explaining that they cannot proselytize or recruit for membership to their churches. In short, I hope this helps to answer your questions and alleviates any concerns about a violation of the original intent of church and state.
All the best,
I still see no attempt to reach out to local Humanist leaders and I let him know that. But it does sound like the district has taken steps to prevent proselytization.
How would you handle this situation from this point forward?