Ash Wednesday service at Centennial leads to probe

Ash Wednesday service at Centennial leads to probe

What's your take? Tell Tom Kacich here and he'll repond at 2 p.m. today

CHAMPAIGN — Unit 4 school officials are investigating whether constitutional rights were violated or district policies broken when a local Catholic priest conducted an Ash Wednesday service for students at Centennial High School, Superintendent Judy Wiegand said Thursday.

At about 6 a.m. Wednesday, the Rev. Joel Phelps of St. Patrick's Church in Urbana provided ashes for "a good number" of choir students before the group left at 6:45 a.m. for a field trip to Memphis.

A Centennial teacher reached out to the Rev. Phelps on behalf of her students after several chorus members asked for a religious accommodation to observe Ash Wednesday before they left the school that morning, the priest told The News-Gazette on Thursday.

There wasn't time in the trip's schedule to stop at a church, he said. Since no local Catholic churches were holding Mass before the group left — the earliest in Champaign was 6:45 a.m. Wednesday at St. Matthew's — the Rev. Phelps said he agreed to come to Centennial to distribute ashes before the start of the school day.

"Ash Wednesday is an important religious practice for many Catholics. When I was in the choir room, I made sure it was known that students could participate voluntarily, and anyone could participate if they wanted to. You don't have to be Catholic to receive ashes," said the Rev. Phelps, who emphasized he was not speaking on behalf of the teacher or the school district.

"We did just the ash service; it was not a Catholic Mass. Because Ash Wednesday is such an important celebration, a lot of people make accommodation requests to receive ashes. We've had services on street corners, hospitals and nursing homes. Even in St. Joe, Ash Wednesday services are held at the middle school after hours."

Wiegand said Thursday that she was aware of the incident, but could not confirm any details.

"We are doing a full investigation," she said. "We certainly do not condone any violation of the separation of church and state."

Wiegand said the school district observes a practice called "limited open forum, where we allow other organizations who are not directly connected to curriculum to have a space in the field." She cited Fellowship of Christian Athletes as an example, adding: "It can be a religious or nonreligious group."

However, under district policy, any religious meeting must take place outside of school hours and cannot be sponsored by a faculty or staff member, Wiegand said.

The Rev. Phelps said he didn't see any issues with the way things were conducted at the school Wednesday and said he was simply helping a teacher respond to a request from students and parents.

He said he didn't know whether school administrators were aware of the situation. Centennial Principal Greg Johnson did not respond to requests for comment.

"Centennial did not publicly endorse anything, and the service was not meant to be exclusionary in any way," the Rev. Phelps said. "This was a teacher helping provide an extracurricular type service for students who asked for it before school started."

The school board's policy on the teaching of religion and religious-oriented activities was approved in April 1997. It states: "The Board of Education adheres to the tenet that no religious belief or nonbelief should be promoted by the district or its staff, and none should be disparaged. District curricula and activities should foster understanding and mutual respect among diverse students, staff and parents. In the spirit of tolerance, students and staff should be excused from participating in practices that are contrary to their religious beliefs."

Wiegand said she couldn't speculate about consequences until she had all of the facts. But "if I find there has been a violation of board policy," she said, "there would certainly be some sort of disciplinary action taken."

University of Illinois College of Law Professor Kurt Lash said a school or teacher is only violating the Constitution if a public school official engages in or sponsors a religious activity during an "officially sponsored public school event," such as during class, at graduation or at a football game.

"On the other hand, schools must allow religious groups the same opportunity to visit the school and use school facilities before or after school hours that they allow other secular groups," Lash said. "So if the school allows nonreligious members of the community to visit with students in classrooms before official school hours, they have to allow religious officials, including priests, the same opportunity."

Lash believes the Centennial teacher was well within the law, but said there are some unanswered questions that could complicate matters.

"In this case, if the religious service took place after students were required to be at school in preparation for the school field trip, that might be close to stepping over the constitutional line," he said. "On the other hand, if this truly was 'before' the school event took place, courts are likely to view this as a permissible accommodation of those Catholic students who otherwise would be prevented from participating in an important religious tradition."

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awycislo wrote on February 20, 2015 at 8:02 am

There's no way this should be a big deal.

Yet, here we are.

Ellen wrote on February 20, 2015 at 8:02 am

Such a joke. Next time Rev. Phelps, hold your services in a van across the street from the school, then they will REALLY "probe" you. Just smh

jherma864 wrote on February 20, 2015 at 8:02 am

Someone always has to make nothing into something. There are certainly more important issues to worry about.


theEd-itor wrote on February 20, 2015 at 8:02 am


This is so petty, but somebody wants to be a little shot and make bad of something good. In a world that for quite some time now has been going bad. This idiot is making something good into something bad.

You dont have much to do with your time now do you.


What a Maroon!


tellingthetruth wrote on February 20, 2015 at 8:02 am

Wow, seriously.  No wonder there is so much hatred in the world, people have nothing else to do but ridicule anyone for any belief. Why is this even newsworthy? No one was hurt, no one was forced to "believe" or do anything, all because it was on school grounds. I suppose the placing of ashes on one's forehead would be a bit tramatic to watch (that was scarcasm for those who get a bit too serious about things).  Good grief, can't we all just coexist?

G. Gordon Gordon wrote on February 20, 2015 at 9:02 am

We absolutely can coexist! Catholic students who want to visit a priest should do so on their own - there shouldn't be a priest brought in to visit a school function. If there wasn't time for students to visit a church on their own, that's a problem for the students to deal with as individuals, not the teacher.

Molly1 wrote on February 20, 2015 at 9:02 am

You do realize that the First Ammendment provides for a Freedom OF Religion, not a Freedom FROM Religion.  Right?

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."


G. Gordon Gordon wrote on February 20, 2015 at 11:02 am

Would you support allowing clergy to come and preach in public schools?

Should school districts be allowed to have mandatory bible study classes? 


Molly1 wrote on February 20, 2015 at 12:02 pm

Before or after school, or during lunch time to voluntary listeners?

I would be okay with that for Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, any peaceful religions, yes.

Extremist religions, like perverted Islamic Extremists, perverted Christian churches like Westboro Baptist, or Satanic, no.


Nothing should be Mandatory, no.


Those intelligent enough to comprehend that they aren't the most powerful beings in the universe, and that while science is wonderful, it still sometimes falls short of telling the whole story, or those curious about religion, could attend. 

For people to believe that the knowledge that we have acquired here on our little piece of property called Earth is complete, are way too naive.  It would be comparable to a tiny ant, studying only 30% of the head of a pin, at the bottom of a haystack in the state of Texas, communicating that it is the most intelligent organism to ever live, because it has studied the pin-head.

There are so many things that we do not understand yet.  ESP, the Bermuda Triangle, Near-Death experiences, whether or not our planet is Cooling or Warming, and if the climate is changing is it natural or man-made.  Just to name a few....

I am not that naive.  I am a man of faith, and a man of science.  The two can co-exist, contrary to the suggestions of the simple-minded media that claim otherwise.


Mike wrote on February 21, 2015 at 7:02 am

Sure we understand. ESP? False. Bermuda triangle? No less safe than any other area of space over the ocean in the world (look it up). Near-death experiences? Seriously? And rainbows are made by unicorns.

Climate change has nothing to do with religion, or the existence of some mythological diety. 

You are the one that is naive. Those of us who have gotten out from under the oppression of religion are the ones with open minds. Who don't start wars based on some silly old bearded man floating up in the clouds. We are scientists who don't believe that "the knowledge we have acquired here" is complete. But nor do we explain things by saying "it must be god's will." 

And the first amendment is indeed about freedom of religion AND freedom from religion. Do your silly religious baloney on your own time. 

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 21, 2015 at 11:02 am

Is the non-belief of creator a form of religion?  How did the incident hurt you?  Are you preaching a belief in your comments? 


alabaster jones 71 wrote on February 21, 2015 at 5:02 pm
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"Is the non-belief of creator a form of religion?"

Is not having a sexually transmitted disease actually a form of having a sexually transmitted disease?


Sid Saltfork wrote on February 21, 2015 at 7:02 pm

What about preaching non-religion to convert others to non-religion?  Sorry but I do not see the analogy with STD, and evangelizing non-religion.  

alabaster jones 71 wrote on February 21, 2015 at 8:02 pm
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"What about preaching non-religion to convert others to non-religion?"

I don't think that is something that happens very often.

I think that what you arguing is typical of a mistaken mindset that religious folks often have.  They assume that, by professing his or her lack of religious faith, a person is automatically attempting to "convert" others to the same views.

To entertain your question,, that is still not a religion.

Religion is, by dictionary definition, "the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power."


Sid Saltfork wrote on February 21, 2015 at 11:02 pm

Oh, we are back to "dictionary definition" again.  Seems like the same old same old as the "Inclusive language" article.  Ideology whether it be religion, non-religion, conservatism, liberalism, etc...can be used to "convert others to the same views".  It does happen often. 


alabaster jones 71 wrote on February 22, 2015 at 5:02 pm
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Of course it can, and does.  Did I argue otherwise?

You asked whether non-religion is actually a religion or not, and the dictionary definition is the most accurate and efficient response to that question.

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 22, 2015 at 10:02 pm

A dictionary does not invent definitions.  It defines after the language usage becomes current.  It seems that atheists do want to convert others to their way of thinking.  Otherwise, you would not have initiated the conversation with your earlier comment.  Now, you are just back pedaling.

By the way, who cares what people name their kids today?  Only you evidently.

Mike wrote on February 21, 2015 at 6:02 pm

How did you decide I was hurt?

I don't believe in a deity because THERE ISN'T ONE.

Does Zeus exist? Allah? Hades? Poseiden? Aphrodite?



Grow up. Santa Claus isn't real. It's a threat to get kids to be "good." Your silly diety is the same thing. It doesn't exist. 

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 21, 2015 at 7:02 pm

Is that why you commented on the article?  Are you trying to convert others to your non-religion belief?

Mike wrote on February 22, 2015 at 5:02 pm

I am not. Stupid people can believe whatever stupid people want to believe. Most atheists are very smart and very well-educated. If you want to believe in some silly diety, go ahead. But don't spew that ridiculous non-information at the public school where my kids learn.

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 22, 2015 at 10:02 pm

Twenty five percent of all Nobel prizes went to members of the Jewish faith.  Were they all atheists?  Sorry but "very smart and very well-educated" does not define Atheists.

This incident described in the article had nothing to do with "ridiculous non-information" spewed to your kids.  It was before school hours.  It was not a Mass.  There was no indoctrination of religion on the students who did not have a sign of faith inprinted on their foreheads during a brief time span. 

According to your logic, no student would be allowed to wear a cross, a sign of David, a headscarf, or any other religious sign of faith on school property.  You imply that because you are an Atheist everyone is "stupid" unless they convert to your belief.  Does Uni High only admit Atheists?  Learn to respect diversity which includes religious faiths instead of being so smug in your belief.  

Molly1 wrote on February 23, 2015 at 10:02 am

This has some interesting reading, and helps to explain the botched study that makes Atheists claim to have a higher IQ.

Personally, my IQ qualifies me for Mensa, but I am not too arrogant nor naive to believe that humans are the highest form of life in the universe.

Molly1 wrote on February 22, 2015 at 4:02 pm

According to the US government Atheism is a religion, and yes, should also be banned from being taught in school, if people are concerned about other religions being taught.  Honestly I thought about that, while the students requested this service be provided, only one adult tried to interject their religion into the students at the school, and that was the idiot teacher that tried to make a big deal out of this with the political rag SmilePolitely.

Mike wrote on February 22, 2015 at 5:02 pm

Nobody wants atheism "taught" in schools. Atheism is nothing. You believe in something. Those of us that are smart don't. I don't believe in Santa Claus. I'm not an atheclausist. I don't believe in the easter bunny. I'm not an athecurpaeumist.

Should we teach the existence of the easter bunny in schools? Of course not.

Molly1 wrote on February 23, 2015 at 10:02 am

Neither Santa Claus nor the Easter Bunny are higher forms of life, no one on this board has been ignorant enough to throw them into this conversation with the exception of you.

There is a huge difference in believing in a higher form of life, or a creator that initiated the Big Bang, than there is in believing in children's stories of well dressed rabbits or happy obese men who only eat cookies.

Molly1 wrote on February 22, 2015 at 4:02 pm

So Mike, let me guess, you are not a scientist but you play one on TV. Right?


I never said that my beliefs about Global Cooling / Global Warming / Climate Change were in any way related to my faith. I believe that both are important, but in the case of the environment, which my church really don't speak much of, I use logic and science.


It has been quite a while since I had science training. It was back in the day when only the top three participants got an trophy and when Pluto was still a planet, and we were required to use something called the “Scientific Method”. Perhaps you have seen it referenced in one of your scripts or on the TV show “The Big Bang Theory”?


The Scientific Method is a multi-step method for introducing new thoughts into proven science. The Basic steps are: Define a Problem, Research, Observe, Form Hypothesis, Experiment / Evaluate, Analyze Data, Draw Conclusions / Re-evaluate / Revise, and finally Communicate Results.


I can tell from your quick dismissal of things unsolved that you use a method that more resembles the “Can't prove it, it isn't true” method used by the Flat Earth Society and other dismissive organizations. Perhaps you would equally blow off other unproven items such as UFOs, Astrological alignment of ancient runes like the Great Pyramids, animals ability to travel great distances but return to their birthplace to reproduce, dogs that travel thousands of miles to find family (sometimes in a new home where they have never been), the Lock Ness 'Monster', Sasquatch, deja vu, and way too many more to list here. But this time instead of using the “I don't have an answer, so it ain't true” method, try using the Scientific Method.


Since you seemed to be more worried about 'Climate Change' than the topic at hand, let me go into my reasoning for disputing it.


Okay, so someone claimed that there was a problem with the weather, cool. Step 1 complete.


Research? Well they obviously did some research, they claim that the temperature across the globe has risen by 1 degree Fahrenheit, and predict that it will rise by another degree by the year 2050. This should be a red flag here for most people, because they are basing much of their argument on assumptions that this temperature increase will continue. Not considering cycles that we know exist such as the el nino and el nina, solar cycles, seasonal cycles, etc. that could very well explain some of the temperature variations. We recognize many different types of nature's cycles, but surely there are still many to be discovered as well. If there is a natural warming / cooling that takes place, it could help to explain glaciers and arctic ice, but if that cycle takes more than 100 years, we would be ignorant of it probably. But okay, let us presume that they are right, and that the temperature will rise by another degree in the next 35 years. Step 2 complete.


Make Observations. Okay, Weather is probably one of the most observed things on our little piece of the universe. So step 3 is constantly being completed, and updated. However, there is no way for us to get data that is more than about 150 years old. Local Journals, written by different people with different equipment, doesn't exactly make for good data integrity, but it's what we've got, so we have to go with it. Now the tools that predate the 1980's were simply mercury based glass thermometers that only marked every 2 degrees, so it is pretty much impossible to cite accuracy down to a degree or less, when the visual scale is left very much up to the observers' eyesight. Since that time, we have developed electronic thermometers which are accurate to 0.1 degrees, if they are setup right, certain elevation from the ground, out of the sunlight, well ventilated, etc.


Since there is no way to truly have down to 0.1 degree Fahrenheit accuracy prior to about 35 years ago, and less accurate information going back about 150 years, and we are evaluating an ecosystem that is millions of years old, this would be considered to be a narrow dataset. Am I going too fast for you? This would be like flipping a quarter 3 times, and getting heads each time, saying that we can now project that we will get heads 3 more times, and saying that since we are going to have six heads in a row, that a flipped coin must always land on heads.


Or, a 'scientific' survey to determine America's favorite ice cream. In 1980, we asked 5 people, and came to the conclusion that Chocolate was America's favorite ice cream. In 1990, someone else conducted another 'scientific' survey, and asked 5 people and concluded that America's favorite ice cream was Strawberry. Now to determine which hypothesis was right, a third team conducts a 'scientific' survey with 15 people in the year 2000, and determined that it is Vanilla. Is there really a Global Sugary Dessert Change? No. It is simply a lack of a sufficient dataset. Does that kind of sound like the whole Global Cooling / Global Warming / Climate Change variations to you? It sure does to me.


Form Hypothesis. Their hypothesis says that there is Climate Change. Maybe there is, maybe there isn't at this point, I'm not sure. But the scientists who are receiving millions of dollars in government money to confirm that there is Global Climate Change say that there is. Of course if they deny it, they lose their cushy multi-million dollar grants... So..... does that influence their outcomes? They claim no, I am not so certain.


Experiment: They make forecasts, they test their theories, they predict huge storms. Where are they? Sure this year Boston is sinking in snow, but is that any different that the huge winter storms of Chicago in the late 70's? Not really different location, but the cycle of the Jet stream can account for that. They predict lots of heat! But if you look at weather underground, the weather channel,or your favorite almanac, you will see that there are still plenty of records set back in the past. Today's record according to for Champaign 69 degrees in 1922. Almost 100 years of not breaking that record. And cold you say? -6 in 1963. Over 50 years of that record not being broken. But feel free to look for yourself, sure there are some recent records, but there are a lot more that happened a long time ago.


They forecast that the number and intensity of hurricanes would increase. Nothing since Katrina, what 10 years ago?


They also seem to dismiss the Dust Bowl of the Midwest in the 1930's. History says that little rain, extreme heat for most of a decade caused rich fertile Kansas soil, to became dust, and blow in some cases all the way to Washington, D.C. Climate Change? No, just an extended period of weather called a drought.


Another part of history they choose to ignore, half of the North American continent was once covered by glaciers. As recently as about 10,000 years ago, where we are standing was covered year round by ice. As the glaciers migrated north, they left the hills, valleys, and plains of the American Midwest. So 10,000 years ago, the planet Earth was warming, and causing glaciers to recede, to where a very small portion of North America is currently covered by ice now. 10,000 years ago. It was a long time ago, and I doubt that either of us remember it very clearly, but I am pretty certain that was before we invented the automobile, were using oil and coal to make steel, and generating electricity for our computers.... I thought that the internal combustion engine wasn't created before slightly more than 100 years ago. So how is it that man was making the Earth so much warmer back then? With our nasty Carbon Monoxide that didn't come until more than 9,800 years later?


Oh but wait, now the Climate Change followers are claiming that it is Carbon Dioxide that is causing Global Warming. Well, engines don't created Carbon Dioxide, people do. And plants love CO2, and use it to create Oxygen for us humans to breathe.


There are more people on planet Earth now, than perhaps there ever have been before. Could that be causing the CO2 to rise, especially with all of the trees that have been cut down in the last two centuries? Sure.


There are more radio waves in the world today, than ever have been present before. Since the microwave works with cooking food by radio waves in a sealed environment, and the government enforces Radio Frequency emission standards to prevent health issues from RF burns, perhaps it is all of the cell phone, wifi, television, radio, satellite waves that are causing the Earth to warm? That is a possibility.


Electrical transformers that bring electricity into our homes contain oil to help cool the coils, similar to the way the oil or the radiator cool your vehicle. Perhaps us taking too much oil out of the Earth has caused the crust to not be able to cool itself as well? Could be.


We have a lot more roads, and buildings that reflect/absorb light, and radiate heat than there has ever been before. It is warmer in the cities than it is on the prairies according to modern thermometers. Perhaps it is our structures themselves, not the energy that we use on them that creates the possible warming? And even cutting back to hybrid fuels in automobiles won't make any difference?


There are way to many questions, and not enough answers.


Suppose that I convinced the President, and the scientists of the day that radio waves, besides having negative effects on bee colonies that has been proven, besides causing RF burns which has been proven, possibly increase the chance of brain tumors (not proven yet) was also responsible for causing the world to warm?


Should we just turn off all of our radio equipment? Cellphones, wifi, television, radio, all gone? Or would it make a lot more sense to understand the possible risks, develop better methods, lower power signals, make more sensitive receivers over time to compensate?


The Global Warming followers are saying that we should quit coal, quit oil, quit gasoline immediately. What I would suggest is a much more modest method. Work with solar, work with wind, work with hydro power generation, improve it. Continue building better hybrids, and other more fuel efficient engines. Work with our equipment, computers, lights, automobile, improve them over time to perhaps help if there is Global Warming? It wouldn't hurt to have more efficient, less smog in the world, right?


But really, do not take a proven technology, that is cleaner today than it has ever been before, and cease to allow it, tax it to death, just because of one possible theory that may or may not be proven a fallacy?




The Climate Change people, and the government jumped over several steps, including Experiment / Evaluate, Analyze Data, and Draw Conclusions / Re-evaluate / Revise. They also keep leaving off the word Theory. It should be Climate Change Theory until it is proven correct, but of course that would just make less people believe, wouldn't it?


Keep living with your naivity.

Mike wrote on February 22, 2015 at 5:02 pm

Wait, what? I don't have the time or care enough to read your entire diatribe, but you're now equating believing in UFOs to believing in some silly diety? Aliens aren't visiting our planet. Ghosts aren't real. Your ridiculous diety is no more real than Allah, Zeus, Ra, or Santa Claus.

I'm naive?

You're wrong.

Molly1 wrote on February 22, 2015 at 6:02 pm

Ah, another tactic used when someone is challenged by a superior intellectual foe, claim to not have time to read, and ignore 99.9% of the topic which they can't argue against.


Joe American wrote on February 20, 2015 at 1:02 pm

Yo Gordo,

You said:

"Would you support allowing clergy to come and preach in public schools?

Should school districts be allowed to have mandatory bible study classes?"


I find that it helps to read something before commenting.  You may want to consider that next time.

"At about 6 a.m. Wednesday, the Rev. Joel Phelps of St. Patrick's Church in Urbana provided ashes ,"

Clearly, this is NOT even during school hours.

"I made sure it was known that students could participate voluntarily, and anyone could participate if they wanted to."

Clearly, this is NOT mandatory, even for those who were there BEFORE school hours. 

Therefore your comments stand as rebutted and irrelevant.

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on February 21, 2015 at 6:02 am
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I don't recall ever seeing Molly comment on any story that didn't involve the church of Rome. She may be its greatest local apologist.

But of course, she's wrong in her initial assertion: The Constitution provides freedom of and from religion. That's really the whole point.

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 21, 2015 at 12:02 pm

Coming from a legal expert, this MUST be true.  He has made anti-Catholic comments before.  Notice the "church of Rome".  Notice the attack on Molly.  Yes, I am attacking him also.  I confess that I do not like smug bullies.

The only foul, depending on your strict interpretation of the school district's Code of Conduct when applied to faculty, is the teacher after being requested by her class allowed a member of the clergy to inprint ashes on the foreheads of those students who had requested it.  It was before school hours.  It was not a Mass.  It was an accommodation due to the time, and weather.  The poor teacher may be reprimaned for not going through the chain of command which would have taken considerable time.  She made a field decision for which many praise her for, and others condemn her.  No student was coerced. They requested it.

Now, the anti-Catholics and legal experts can weigh in again.  I expected more of them to do so then actually did.  Yes, I am a Catholic.  I was allowed to choose for myself by my parents who were of no faith.  I became a Catholic after college on my own free will.    

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on February 22, 2015 at 4:02 am
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It's not catholic, Sid. It's not ecumenical.

Is it OK to criticize al-Qaeda? What about ISIS? The former is a religious organization that exports violence to countries outside its territories. It simply wants a return to traditonal life, as professed in the ancient texts of its Abrahamic roots. As such, its goals should be lauded by many of the people commenting here.

The latter operates only within its territory, but seeks to expand its territory, by violent means if necessary. Its ultimate goal is One Religion, worldwide. Sound familiar?

Historically, the church of Rome is more like ISIS, although it's tortured and executed FAR more people than ISIS, in the name of god.

But there have certainly been campaigns of terror in which the Roman church sent soldiers outside its territory, employing violence to subdue the natives into submission.

Maybe they're not as violent these days. But if you can't criticize their organization, they get away with some truly heinous crimes.

And they dictate govenment policy wherever they're powerful enough to get away with it; whether it's birth control in Brazil, condoms in AIDS-stricken Africa, refusing communion to John Kerry or admonishing Pat Quinn on questions of public policy.

There's also the problem of the medical services market. The market only supports so many hospitals. What if they all refused to perform women's reproductive health services? How many women would die of ectopic pregnancies? (In nearly as much pain as you'd get via the church's preferred methods of torture.)


Anyway, back to the initial question: Am I allowed to criticize al-Qaeda or ISIS?


Molly's decision (that religions she likes are acceptable, but not religions she doesn't like) is a nearly perfect example of the reason courts had to get involved in these matters.

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 22, 2015 at 1:02 pm

Where did Molly say that in the comments? 

You use history, not contemporary events, to critcize the "church of Rome".  All religions in history have committed atrocities.  You are mixing apples and oranges with your al-Qaeda, ISIS analogy unless that was your purpose to link them with the religion the contemporary incident the article is about.

Whether the incident involved Islamic, Jewish, Protestant, etc., I see nothing wrong.  However based on your previous comments in other articles, and this one, it is obivious that you have something against Catholics. 

I am Catholic; but like many other Catholics, I do not follow what I find to be archaic.  I believe that a woman's body is hers.  She has every right to decide about pregnancy.  I believe that the Church should allow female priests.  All churches change with the times.  To think that one faith or ideology is superior to others leads to non-communication, discrimination, and too many times violence.  

You can go ahead and condemm my faith; but expect me, and others to defend it as we will with condemnation of other faiths.    

Molly1 wrote on February 22, 2015 at 5:02 pm

Thanks for jumping in for me in my absence, Sid.

Yes, thousand year old stories compared with current times, are apples compared with oranges.

I personally however, believe that a woman's time to decide is before she gets pregnant.  It bothers me that a person that  destroys a Bald Eagle's egg or kills a Bald Eagle is prosectuted to the fullest extent of the law, but a woman can kill the child inside of her with no regard and no consequences.

And the Democrats who claim to be the 'scientifically' advanced group, who believe in Global Warming typically, don't follow the scientifically accepted end of life / murder requirements.  A person dies when there is no heartbeat and no brain function.  Babies in the womb have both of those after just a few weeks.  So to end a pregnancy through abortion meets the scientific criteria for murder.

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 22, 2015 at 10:02 pm

Molly;  You and I disgree on some things that are currently being debated within the faith we share.  I have been pleased with the new Pope for approaching new ideas in our faith.  It allows debate.  However, I choose not to debate with you in the comments on this article.  I hope that you agree.

Molly1 wrote on February 23, 2015 at 10:02 am

I wasn't initiating debate with you.  I think that the new pope is covering some good ground as well.  I was simply stating my opinion on an area that we differ, that's all.

Molly1 wrote on February 22, 2015 at 5:02 pm

Your memory of me is as faulty as your understanding of the Constitution.

I have commented on religion, the DMV, the idiot Urbana mayor, neighbors not shoveling snow, the idiot now suing the U of I Salita (who messed up his own life), restaurants not having their placard in the windows regarding their most recent inspection, etc.

If you see religion in all of those things, then you have bigger problems than I do.

Perhaps I should recommend that you go get counseling.  Priests provide free counseling as I understand it.  I've never utilized this service myself, but thought that I could help you with the reccomendation.

Molly1 wrote on February 20, 2015 at 9:02 am

This is crazy!!

Why do we wonder about the state of our country today?

This was a requested, voluntary, gathering of Christians two hours before school started.  Non-participants wouldn't have even known about it, except they heard it through the grape vine.  There is no way that non-believers were discriminated against or harmed in any way.

But this is the same school that condoned forcing all kids to participate during school hours, through either active participation or inactively having to step over 'dead bodies', an event a couple of months ago that turned into an exercise of riot control, truant students inhibiting traffic flow, and damaging private property.

Do us all a favor, allow the private, voluntary, out-of-school-hours religious ceremonies, and instead restrict the during school hours, forced involvement, traffic and truancy law breaking riots!


P.S. I will only respond to logical, coherant, well thought out responses to this post, so if I don't respond, you will know why.

daniella birch wrote on February 20, 2015 at 10:02 am

Non participants have every right to know about it! So they can arrange something on their own. Parents of all students should have been given fair warning. Plus, as evidenced in the McCollum case, voluntary doesn't mean that it didn't cross the line. The teacher organized it, as a representative of the state, she has no right to do that.

rsp wrote on February 20, 2015 at 9:02 am

I really want to know what the actual complaint was. There had to be one, right? Or is the district worried about the kids religous faith more than they were worried about them protesting?

Mr Dreamy wrote on February 20, 2015 at 9:02 am

And if it was a Muslim call to prayer 5 times a day, a couple of times while in school, and Muslim students stopped activities and prayed, that would be ok with you?


If it isn't ok with you, but it is ok to call Catholics to prayer, please tell me the difference.

Molly1 wrote on February 20, 2015 at 9:02 am

Uh.... It wasn't during school hours....

It didn't disturb any classes....

What aren't you getting about this?

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 21, 2015 at 7:02 pm

The students were NOT called to prayer.  They chose to have ashes inprinted on their foreheads.  It is not a Mass.  It is not a prayer session.  It is not communion.  No preaching is involved.  It is less than 4 seconds to have the sign of their faith thumb printed on their forehead.  It is a sign of their faith just like other faiths wear headwear.  It is only once a year.

Maybe, you should learn about religious faiths before you comment. 

whatithink wrote on February 20, 2015 at 9:02 am

So, it ok for  TEACHERS to disrupt classes and organize a thug gathering and damage peoples properties, but this is not?  I personally know students that were unable to go to class because the michael brown "protesters" purposely blocked them during the "TEACHER organized" rally.  Unlike that, this clearly did not affect any person that did not want to particpate, especially at 6:45. 

G. Gordon Gordon wrote on February 20, 2015 at 9:02 am

How does a thug gathering differ from any other gathering?

How can you tell one apart from the other?

BruckJr wrote on February 20, 2015 at 2:02 pm

The thugs are intimidating citizens and destroying private property.  Not really all that hard.

Unblinded Eye wrote on February 20, 2015 at 9:02 am

So.... the same superintendent who publicly condoned and supported the students at Centennial a couple months ago for skipping class and blocking the street (and illegal action, mind you) to protest a matter which, in all fairness, really had no direct consequence on any of them is now opening a formal investigation into whether a voluntary Ash Wednesday service - a service request by the SAME STUDENT BODY she so publicly endorsed a couple months ago - somehow violated someone's constituational rights? Are you kidding me? And she wonders why the public won't support her $150 million referendum? Where are her priorities? Perhaps she should be a bit more concerned that MY CHILDREN had to miss days of school last month because other children didn't have proper attire to stand at the bus stop in the cold rather instead of whether little Johnny or Jenny Athiest, Jr. were violated by other students having an opportunity to practice their faith.

Molly1 wrote on February 20, 2015 at 9:02 am

How do we as voters get this Superintendant removed?

I think that this school years news reports are more than enough to justify it.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on February 21, 2015 at 6:02 pm
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Little Johnny or Jenny?  I'm afraid your showing your age.

These days, it's more like little Dekota, Mackenzee, Ashleigh, Hunter, Tanner, Tucker, etc.

Rickenbacker II wrote on February 20, 2015 at 9:02 am

Father,forgive them;for they know not what they do.

yates wrote on February 20, 2015 at 9:02 am

Me thinks maybe somebody protestath too much. Enough already.

Mr Dreamy wrote on February 20, 2015 at 9:02 am

Molly1, it's not the time, it's the building. And for you and the others, that old silly Constitution gets in the way again.

if you don't believe, ask yourself, and then please answer, what was that Vashti McCollum (mother of ex mayor Dannel McCullum) Supreme Court case all about?

Molly1 wrote on February 20, 2015 at 10:02 am

You mean the First Amendment.... that backs up what I am saying...?

You do realize that the First Ammendment provides for a Freedom OF Religion, not a Freedom FROM Religion.  Right?

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

capt80 wrote on February 20, 2015 at 11:02 am

So I looked up this case. Not being a life long resident, I had no idea this occured. Can't say I don't disagree with the decision.

With that being said, this incident has ABSOLUTELY NO RELEVANCE to the McCollum case. Coersion is the key word here. No one was forcing religion on these students. No one is harassing the students that didn't want ashes.

Find something relevant and I'll listen to your argument.

richard wrote on February 20, 2015 at 10:02 am

Nonesense!  Now, school policies, no matter how good or bad, are one matter.  However, the separation of Church and State is NOT constitutional!  The free exercise of religion IS constitutional.

The policy has a clause, "none should be disparaged. District curricula and activities should foster understanding and mutual respect among diverse students, staff and parents".  However, this probe seems to be disparaging and could easily discourage promised freedoms.

Now, on the other hand, although it infringes on freedom of speech, other students harassing students for their ashes, for wearing a head scarf, for wearing a yarmulke, etc - should not be tolerated.

Just my too scents...

Molly1 wrote on February 20, 2015 at 10:02 am

Love it all, and agree with it all, excepts for the "scents".

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on February 22, 2015 at 5:02 am
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Why do both of you ignore the Establishment Clause? That's just weird.


But I assume that talking point is on someone's agenda. Who's teaching it? (Or preaching it?) Is it Fox News? Is it coming from a pulpit?

Molly1 wrote on February 22, 2015 at 6:02 pm

Don't watch Fox News, just because I don't get it with a package.  It might be worthwhile.

I didn't discuss it, because it is way out in Left Field.  Did the city, state, county, feds say that the preferred or established religion for this country is Catholism?  Did I miss that on the news?

If the bishop wants to build a new church, can he ask the governor for a new Church Tax?

If not, then there is no problem with the Seperation of the Church and the State.

Sorry for your confusion.

daniella birch wrote on February 20, 2015 at 10:02 am

Nobody's freedoms need to be infringed upon. If the students or even parents care so much about it, they should be the ones to organize something like this, not the teacher. The teacher could even participate if they wanted to! but she cannot take part in organizing it. It shows preference to one over the other. If she wants to arrange it, then she better take time to arrange something to represent the religious concerns of every single individual in the school.

Molly1 wrote on February 20, 2015 at 10:02 am

Re-read the third paragraph of this story.

The students organized it, they went to the teacher, who only passed a message to the appropriate third-party.

The teacher did not, according to the story, suggest the ceremony, nor make the first commentary/contact about it.

Several students requested it, and the impartial teacher simply conveyed the wishes of her students to have a peaceful, non-violent, law abiding, voluntary gathering during non-school hours to participate in their faith.  Non-believers faiths were not hindered nor criticized.

daniella birch wrote on February 20, 2015 at 2:02 pm

The priest admits to being asked to come by the teacher, not the students. What part of that makes you think that the students organized this? High school students don't need people to do things on their behalf. If they want something badly, they are perfectly capable of arranging things on their own. If they require assistance, then parents should be helping, not public employees.

Molly1 wrote on February 22, 2015 at 6:02 pm

Students are not adults.  Students can not make deals with outside parties.

If the students wanted a band to play at a school dance, could they make all of the arrangements themselves?  Invite strangers into the school?  No.

No, they would have to organize a poll of the students, and once the decision was made by the students, then they would have to contact a teacher or principal to make contact and possibly financial arrangements with the outside party.

Just like the had to involve teachers during their little 'die in' / riot party a couple of months ago.

daniella birch wrote on February 20, 2015 at 10:02 am

"under district policy, any religious meeting must take place outside of school hours and cannot be sponsored by a faculty or staff member"

Seems like a pretty cut and dry case to me.

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 21, 2015 at 8:02 pm

Wow.  It has to be Right or Wrong, Yes or No, with nothing in between.  Maybe if you could convince others to your way of thinking, you could have a Birch Society.

tellingthetruth wrote on February 20, 2015 at 10:02 am

I understand your comment, and I get why you think this should be an issue.  I guess I just thought it was a nice jester of respect.  I don't believe in any God, and I'm happy that some pray for me, I am glad that makes them feel good to do that.  I just don't judge anyone for their beliefs or race, I respect the faithfulness that people have. 

I guess my point was there is no harm no foul here, it was 6:45am. I do find it silly that children/families CAN'T practice their religious beliefs in school, I feel like there should be some accomodation for prayer if there needs to be; however, if they should miss something important during school hours they should find a way to make up their work. 

Maybe my child might become interested in said religion and choose in life to pursue that.  I applaud it.  Just because I can't believe in one thing doesn't mean I'm going to make my child be the same way.  I want my children to respect people, period. This conversation can bleed into so many topics.  AND I also understand the flip side to everything I've said here, the radical side of things, and I get both sides. I really do, I just don't understand why this particular event would cause this much attention.  

Molly1 wrote on February 20, 2015 at 10:02 am

Beautifully stated.

That is what 'co-existing' is all about.

LesleyMitchell wrote on February 20, 2015 at 1:02 pm


My name is Lesley Mitchell. I graduated from Cenntennial High School in 2005. During my years at CHS, I took 11 semesters of Choir with Marian Wyatt. Let me just start by saying, she is the most caring educator I have ever met. Marian is more than willing to go out of her way for any of her students.She is also someone who supports all religons, even though she is not a member of a church herself. I can remember performing many varieties of music, anywhere from a Jewish lullaby to classic rock like "Bohemian Rhapsody", and Christmas carols as well.

 I will say I am rather disappointed with the public school system these days. The fact that students do not recite our nations Pledge of Allegiance because it contains the word God, is very sad. I am also not someone who attends church regulary, but I do believe in Americas traditions and being able to have the freedom to study what ever religon it is that you choose. Therefore, I see nothing wrong with Marians choice to accommadate her students on Ash Wednesday, and will support her in anyway that I can. She has supported our community and her students for many years. Now i think its time we do the same for her. 

sweet caroline wrote on February 20, 2015 at 10:02 am

Oh.  My.  God.  My beef is not with the teacher arranging for the students to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday.  It was before school and was not a means of evangelizing to the non-Christians.  My beef is with the News-Gazette for shoving that photo of a forehead with the sign of the cross in ashes in my face.  It takes up a half page on the online version!  At first I couldn't even tell what it was.  A smaller size photo would have served the purposes, for Heaven's sake!  The News-Gazette has no news so it has to enlarge photos to take up space.

As for the event, though, nobody's rights were violated, and those who take offense are whiners who have miserable lives. 

keyslammer wrote on February 20, 2015 at 10:02 am
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Oh STOP IT ALREADY!!!!!  Let people observe religious rites if they wish.  NOBODY held up any schedule and nobody was required to participate.  Put God back into a curriculum and only good things will emerge.  The students who wished to receive the ashes should be given the opportunity just as other religions should be given the opportunity to participate in their rites.  STOP IT and stop whining America.  This is just getting ridiculous beyond the meaning of the word.

G. Gordon Gordon wrote on February 20, 2015 at 11:02 am

Putting God into more things is absolutely the last thing this country needs.

Joe American wrote on February 20, 2015 at 3:02 pm

No, close-minded, bigoted people saying "Putting God into more things is absolutely the last thing this country needs." is really the last thing that this country needs.

Cuthbert J. Twillie wrote on February 20, 2015 at 12:02 pm

So two thousand dollars damage in an illegal street demonstration started and approved by Unit 4 is ok... ( during school hours)


But a 5 minute ceremony 90 minutes before school is forbidden.


Unit 4 has probably the worse public relations of any district south of I80  If people were not inclined to vote NO BEFORE   they will now.

Citizen1 wrote on February 20, 2015 at 12:02 pm

You are so right.  Unit 4 couldn't run a one car funeral

Dr Livingston wrote on February 20, 2015 at 1:02 pm

Superintendent Judy Wiegand is being paid an excessive six figure salary to investigate something requested by the students of taxpayers.  It is time to replace this wateful "public servant" with someone who has a clear head.  Wiegand is a perfect example of why Illinois is broke.  Replace people like Judy Wiegand, vote her out of office.   Govemment should be there to allow religious freedom not restrict religious freedom. 

ilmsff7 wrote on February 21, 2015 at 2:02 pm

You'll need a new school board to replace the Superintendent.  The Superintendent is the only employee directly hired or terminated by the school board - all other faculty and administration are hired and terminated by building principals or the Superintendent.

Mr Dreamy wrote on February 20, 2015 at 1:02 pm

Let us reframe the situation with a hypothetical. Two Muslim students in the choir want services before the choir leaves. They tell the teacher. The teacher contacts a Muslim cleric, who comes to the school, and, while the services are performed, the other students don't want to participate, they just want to get going on their trip. Ok with you?

Or, the teacher ignores the Muslim students and takes no action. Is now discriminatory? Not to mention those of neither faith, who just don't want anything to do with a religious service, they don't want to wait for some other religion to get done so they can go on their way. Discriminatory?

Yes, and yes. Religion belongs in the home and church or temple, not in public school buildings with others who may be subjected to your brand of faith.

All (major, I suppose) religions are peaceful and have their followers. If you want to go a service, go. But if the service of another faith is brought to you, and you are in a public building and just don't want to hear about that faith, you shouldn't have to. Because all religions, and the lack of religion, is to be treated the same in the eyes of the Law.

DennisG wrote on February 20, 2015 at 2:02 pm

My guess is that there wouldn't be any issues raised with the Muslims.

However, your facts are not the same.  There was no delay in the departure of the bus.  The service was scheduled before the bus departure time.

Interesting that you have to change basic facts in order to make your case.

I agree with the above that this will hurt Unit 4 if they don't squelch this nonsense quickly.

Molly1 wrote on February 20, 2015 at 2:02 pm

The requesting students apparently showed up 45 minutes prior to the buses departure, just so that they could participate in this event.

No non-believers were forced to wait or feel like outsiders.

This proves just how important this was to the teen students that initiated this request!  How many teenagers will get up by 5:00 A.M., travel to school in the cold, attend a ceremony, and then go sit on a bus for hours to attend a choral event? Not too many.

And you are correct that "all religions, and the lack of religion, is to be treated the same".  I will not cram my faith down your throat, but I don't want you to cram your lack of faith down mine either.  If my church, tombstone, memorial has a crucifix on it, look the other way or take a different route to work, school, or whereever.  And I will not complain if your tombstone or memorial has no symbols of faith on it.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on February 21, 2015 at 6:02 pm
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Who the hell has ever complained about a crucifix on a tombstone?


Holy red herring, Batman!

Molly1 wrote on February 22, 2015 at 6:02 pm

Here's one:


Google more if you want to see them.

rsp wrote on February 20, 2015 at 5:02 pm

For those who are not familiar with the Vashti McCollum case, there was a movie made which tells the story. I was told the story by her son, Dan, so when I had the chance to see it I was facinated. You can watch it on PBS or youtube. It's called "The lord is not on trial here today". It does a good job of explaining what the family went through, and what a hero Vashti was to stand up for her family.

Sandy wrote on February 21, 2015 at 2:02 am

I am Catholic, but I am also quite fond of the separation of church and state. What I don't understand is why none of the adults involved saw that a religious rite led by a priest in a public school goes far beyond student-led gatherings that involve prayer or other religious content. If an accommodation was going to be made, why not ask for an earlier service at a church close to the school or a later service after they returned?  (And in the future why not pencil in a reminder on the lesson plan not to schedule any field trips on Ash Wednesday in the first place. It sounds as if the date of the trip may have been beyond the teacher's control, but earlier awareness of a potential conflict would have made a wider array of solutions possible -- perhaps even identifying a way to obtain ashes at their location.)

rsp wrote on February 21, 2015 at 2:02 pm

The state didn't provide the ashes. Just because it was inside the building before school doesn't mean it was sanctioned by the school. The students wanted to express their faith before they travelled. Nobody was forced to participate, but to suggest that maybe they not be allowed to pray outside of school is wrong.

Commonsenseman wrote on February 21, 2015 at 8:02 am

..and this school system is who we should give more money to?

I'm sure if it was a muslim or transgender prayer service  eneryone would be just fine

alabaster jones 71 wrote on February 21, 2015 at 5:02 pm
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"transgender prayer service"


I'm pretty damn sure that transgenderism is not a religion.

And, yeah, if there had been a similar incident at Centennial involving a Muslim imam instead of a Catholic priest, there would be swarms of people commenting on the article showing their disapproval.  You would probably be one of them.  Don't kid yourself.

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 21, 2015 at 12:02 pm

I thought it interesting that on Ash Wednesday the Legislators who requested it were allowed a small room in the Capitol Building to receive ashes before assembly.  Not a big deal for them; and it should not be a big deal regarding this incident locally.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on February 21, 2015 at 6:02 pm
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I personally believe that all organized religion---be it Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Wicca, you name it---is destructive, both to society and to the individuals who partake in it.


That being said, I could care less if some students participated in Catholic rituals before school hours.  The students themselves requested it.  So long as no students were pressured into participating, what is the harm?  It may have technically been illegal and/or unconstitutional, but, eh....I'm no law-and-order stickler here.


Yet, with that being said, let's be honest here......if these had been some Muslim students, and if a Muslim imam had performed a religious service with those students in an identical scenario, then almost all of the commenters here supporting the priest would likely be condemning the imam.  Some would likely make bigoted references or jokes about "terrorism."  Meanwhile, the same commenters on here complaining about violation of church and state would likely go silent in that instance, or even defend the imam and the students.  You see, so many liberals are very quick to (correctly) point out Christian malfeasance, yet are scared to death to point out destructive behavior from non-Christians (see Affleck, Ben).


So, yeah, long story short, almost everyone is a hypocrite!  Enjoy your day.  We'll all have forgotten about this in a day or two.

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 21, 2015 at 7:02 pm


   1st paragraph: You defined yourself as non-religious.  You feel that religion is harmful.

   2nd pragraph:  You care less if some students participated in Catholic rituals.  You see no harm in it  as long as no students were coerched into participating.

   3rd paragraph:  You assume "that all of the commenters here supporting the priest would be likely be condemning the iman" if the students had been Muslim.

   4th paragraph:  "almost everyone is a hypocrite!"

 You really make some big assumptions in your comments.  Why did you bother making any comment if you care less about the incident?  Was it to preach your non-religion belief?  Why did you comment?     

alabaster jones 71 wrote on February 21, 2015 at 8:02 pm
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That's a goofy question.  

I posted for the same reason that you and everybody else commenting here share my opinion about the content of the article.

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 21, 2015 at 10:02 pm

My primary issue with your comments was your assumption that the commenters would be outraged if an Iman did the same thing with Muslim students.  I do not believe as evidenced in the comments on this article that the majority of them would discriminate toward another religion given the same circumstances.  Maybe, the anti-religion commenters would regarding the "separation of Church, and State".

I do not care if you do not believe in a higher power than man.  However, I take issue with anyone who uses their belief, or non-belief to convert others to their ideology. 

This incident was an accommodation due to the early hour before the bus left.  If the students who requested the accommodation had walked across the street and received their ashes, it would have not been an issue.  Yes, a mistake was made and mistakes are forgiven by the majority of people.