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Oklahoma School Chaplaincy Program sparks AU protest. (Around The States).

An Oklahoma's public school district's policy of allowing ministers to serve as "school chaplains" has generated a complaint from Americans United.

Earlier this year, Jim Haynes, superintendent of schools in Commerce, Okla., endorsed a proposal from Baptist pastor Billy Bissell to institute a chaplaincy program in the district's public schools to be known as the Commerce Area Ministerial Alliance Chaplaincy Program.

The Commerce school board voted to approve the project in October and issued a resolution that "encouraged" individual school administrators to "make use of the services offered" by the pastors.

According to a report in Oklahoma's Baptist Messenger, the program will involve pastors from six Commerce-area churches spending time in public schools, offering counseling to students and teachers during the school day.

Ayesha Khan, legal director of Americans United, wrote to school district officials in March, insisting that the program is "constitutionally improper."

"Courts have approved public chaplaincy programs only in extremely limited contexts, such as in prisons and on military bases," Khan wrote. "The use of chaplains in these situations has been upheld because individuals would otherwise be unable to practice their religions because of the restrictions on their movement in these environments. This is not true of students or of teachers, who are easily able to access clergy members and religious facilities in their communities."
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Title Annotation:Americans United for Separation of Church and State
Publication:Church & State
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2002
Previous Article:Ed. Department must protect rights, says Americans United. (In The Capital).
Next Article:Private school vouchers get little support in new poll. (Around The States).

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