The blessing that really wasn’t

ColumnistApril 6, 2017 

In case you missed it last week, there was an interesting news story about a school district declining a $50,000 gift. It difficult for me to image anyone, much less a school district, turning down an offer of that much money. Naturally, my curiosity was piqued.

Now, before I begin this dissertation, let me state here and now that I would have approved if the ultimate decision of the school board was to decline the gift. I don’t necessarily agree with the thought process or the methodology that was taking place to reach a conclusion.

The Greenfield-Central School District in Indiana is in the process of installing an $800,000 artificial turf to its football field. The district has $200,000 available and is seeking funding for the additional $600,000.

An anonymous group had agreed to donate $50,000 toward the project with a stipulation that a logo be painted on the new field. The requested logo was to be #BlessTheWorld. In an email to the school board, the group explained, “#BlessTheWorld is an online expression that celebrates giving back, making a positive difference and any act of kindness that makes the world a better place. It’s not a set of beliefs or a creed. It’s a call to action.”

One word in the logo immediately became a cause of concern. Perhaps it was because the donors were thought to be tied locally with the Park Chapel Christian Church pay-it-forward campaign. The word blessed became problematic and was concerned to be potentially offensive.

Steve Menser, a school board member, raised concern, saying, “It’s tied to Christianity. It’s tied to God’s blessing. There is no other meaning.”

He also stated, “It is a religious word since it’s tied to Christianity, and that may offend people of other religions.”

If blessing are only available to those of the Christian faith, is he saying that non-Christians cannot be blessed? And what about our Jewish brethren? Don’t they also believe that they can be blessed by God?

The part of the newscast that most caught my attention was the brief accompanying interview. I don’t recall if the interviewee was a board member or part of the school’s administration. Either way, he was supposedly representing the views of the school board.

The gist of his comment was that accepting the gift, acknowledging that there are blessings, would be a violation of the doctrine of separation of church and state as set forth in the First Amendment.

At that point, my unfortunate wife had to endure my screaming at the television once again. I was not aware that any educated person in this nation believed that separation of church and state is a component of our Constitution.

The drafters of the United States Constitution took great pains to prohibit the intrusion of government into the church — not vice versa. We have freedom of religion in this country; as opposed to freedom from religion.

After all the fretting and worrying, the offer of the gift was gracefully rescinded. That saved the board from having to decline the gift, which is undoubtedly what they would have felt obligated to do.

I believe that the school board would have been justified in this case to decline the gift for two reasons. The first is that in all likelihood a baseless lawsuit would probably be brought against the district had they accepted the funds. Lawsuits are expensive and the entire $50,000 would have rapidly been depleted.

The second reason I would have agreed with the board is actually quite simple. Come on! Nobody who gives less than 10 percent of the total cost of the project is entitled to naming rights!

David Coffelt is a Harrisonville area resident and his email address is dcoffelt@coffeltlandtitle.com.

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