Tuesday Night's Meeting

I checked out Urban Impact, the location of Tuesday night's Assignment plan/Math adoption meeting. As I posted in a previous thread, I wondered why the district chose a non-district location in a faith-based building when there are other school buildings nearby.

I had to drive around a bit (for reasons that will become clear) looking for this building. I managed to overshoot it and passed Dunlap, South Lake AND Rainier Beach High School. (And FYI, the new South Shore building for New School is HUGE. I couldn't believe how large this thing is and they aren't even done. That's one school opening I'm going to attend.)

So the reason I couldn't find Urban Impact is because the name on the green sign in front of the building is "Emerald City Bible Fellowship, Mission Outreach". Urban Impact is nowhere to be seen on the outside of the building so keep that in mind as you look for the building.

I went inside to see the meeting room and a very nice piano teacher told me it was upstairs. (At the front desk there was Urban Impact signage.) I went upstairs to the auditorium which is a large room that had lots of sound equipment on it and a large cross at the back of the stage.( I was told by someone at today's meeting that they would be taking the cross down for the meeting.)

I did ask some staff at the meeting about this location and no one seems to know why it was picked. I did mention that, personally, I would feel uncomfortable in a meeting room that was clearly faith-based when there are other buildings available for meetings.

It all seems quite odd to me.


LG said…
I have no idea why SPS decided to meet at Urban Impact, but I can say that Urban Impact has been very committed to improving the health and welfare of the local community. They sponsor a non-profit gym next door that is fantastic, really aimed at real people. You would never know it is run by a faith-based organization unless you asked. They even have a few hours/week that are women-only that are patronized by many Muslim women.
Anonymous said…
As I told Melissa in the other thread, Urban Impat partners with the district in several out-of-school projects such as tutoring. In its incarnation as "Emerald City Outreach Ministries, it ran a summer academic program (may still, I'm not certain).

They have been long invested in student acheivement and communities of color, regardless of religion. It was a natural fit for a location to draw in people from South Seattle, who likely a)know that the green building is now Urban Impact and b)know what the organization does for the area.
seattle citizen said…
But a)is it an appropriate place for a public school meeting, and b)is the partnering with religious organizations appropriate under separation of church and state?

Again, I am not demeaning the efforts of this church, their following in the community, or their good intentions. Rather, I am questioning whether this is even constitutional.

Remember the "Faith Based Initiative": While it is still on-going (though in a diminished capacity), many have and continue to question how the government can make these partnerships. The key issue seems to be whether the church (or whatever) can successfully, and fully, separate it's religious function from its community service function.

Maybe some do. Myself, and others, believe that it might be inherenttly inpossible to make a separation in such a way as to render explicit that separation of church and state.

There is an implicit endorsement of the religion when the state arranges its meetings in a church (particulalry when other venues, say, A SCHOOL, are nearby.

Since there is evidence that SOME religious organizations ignore ethical limitations on their preaching to a captive, public audience, it behooves the state to maintain a strict separation to avoid these instances. I think.

And say, what's UP with that "Under God" thing hanging there in the Pledge of Allegiance?
I can't believe that's still there...
Ananda said…
I think it is reflective of an effort to do community engagement some place other than the JSCEE. There were closure related public meetings at community halls and community centers. This group has (a) a non-religious relationship with SPS, (b) a strong community draw and (c) a decent space. I see no problem with having a meeting there, it shows an effort for authentic engagement. If the ONLY meeting was there, then I could see a reason for the concern, but it is one of many.
Anonymous said…
Seattle Citzen, it's not in a church. It's in a building owned by a faith-based organization, one that's been a focal point for many important meetings for various groups in the Rainier Valley for at least the decade I've lived in the area.

I'm with Ananda here-this is an effort to reach out to a specific community, in a place where that community is comfortable. Maybe the Rainier Beach Community Center down the street is booked!

There are many, many partnerships between the district and any number of organizations, faith-based and not. If the faith-based ones really bother you and others, then do what you feel necessary to end their relationships with the district. But you'd better work on finding replacements for the programs they run or serve, because there are kids and families who rely on them, and they do some good work.
Gouda said…
I'm glad that it's being held at Urban Impact. Just to clarify, the building does house a church, Emerald City Bible Fellowship, and the non-profit Urban Impact.

For those of you unfamiliar with SE Seattle, Urban Impact is a well-respected group that has done neighborhood outreach for over twenty years. Its residents, of all religions, respect the work they do. In fact, if you walk into their community gym next door, you'll often find Muslim women working out on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

I think non-traditional is good. If neither the church nor non-profit is spreading a religious message, then how is it harmful? And also, the people who designed the building intentionally designed it as one that is specifically not "churchy" so as to be used by all of the community.
seattle citizen said…
I agree that they do good work. I am just very protective of this separation. It is not enough to say, well they do good work, so why not? There is a very good reason for the separation (a constitutional reason, no less) and I feel that it is not wise to do unconstitutional things just because they have some good in them.

Not to say this partnership IS unconstitutional, but it could be.

Which other amendments would we soften if it served students to do so? We are in loco parentis of these children; it is up to us to defend their rights because they are minors.
The fact still remains that down the street are 3 school buildings that could easily be used. The Community Center charges so, of course, don't use it. The Rainier Beach community would not feel comfortable in a school building talking about school assignments?

Also, even if many in this community feel comfortable in this building, the district sets up meetings in different areas of the city to try to make it easy for parents/community to access such meetings. However, with scheduling, some may have to go to a meeting not in their area. If I were Jewish (and I'm not), I certainly would not feel comfortable coming into a space that clearly stated to be an evangelical Christian entity down to the cross on the wall.

Perceptions and comfort levels do matter and again, why the district felt the need to make this choice when it had other choices is something to wonder about.
Ananda said…
FYI, there is no "seperation of church and state" in the US Constitution. The phrase comes from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association.
seattle citizen said…
Ananda, thank you for the correction. Here is the amendment language to which I am refering when I wrote of separation of church and state:
1st Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

This amendment commonly is cited as supporting the separation of church and state to which I refer.
If anyone requires precedent in the long line of interpretations of this amendment and how the precedent led to our current understanding of the (non)role of government in promoting religion, feel free to ask.
Ananda said…
I would suggest that anyone interested in learning why the "wall" between church and state (particularly in public schools) is not as high as people believe read "The Nine." There is a very good chapter about the US Supreme Court rulings on the subject.
seattle citizen said…
I haven't read "The Nine," but my feeling is that the wall is not high enough. The latest "Under God" ruling, for example, in 2004, punted on the issue entirely by ruling that the father who sued to stop having his daughter recite this (or listen to it) in a public school did not have legal standing to sue, as he was in a custody dispute with the mother (who DID want the child to be able to pledge, "under God")

They COULD have ruled on it, by accepting a father's standing, no matter the dispute, but chose to not, therefore keeping that phrase unchallenged.

Just waiting for the next suit...I mean, WHY have it in a government pledge at all?
Free said…
Ditto that. Some schools don't do the Pledge; it is apparently up to the individual principal or teacher. Our son "opted out" in first grade at Lowell, where it is a Monday morning ritual, without any prompting from us. (He complained to a substitute teacher, who assured him the Pledge was entirely optional.)

Freedom of religion must also allow freedom from religion.

(Recently, one of our son's pals asked if he would start saying the Pledge now that Obama was in office . . . totally missing the point!)

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