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October 23, 2011

Teacher reportedly handed out religious tracts in classroom

Parent says students who said they are Catholic were handed anti-Catholic pamphlets while in school

By Libby Cluett | lcluett@mineralwellsindex.com

In addition to handing out cartoon-like publications to kids entering the DI Haunted House and families attending Mass last Saturday, one parent reports that Mineral Wells Junior High English teacher Marsha A. McDonald gave her child and others an anti-Catholic pamphlet at school Monday, during class.

The mother, who asked to go unnamed, said her 12-year-old child showed her the small pamphlet titled “Are Roman Catholics Christians?” Monday night, telling her it came from McDonald during Creative Writing class.

McDonald has been suspended by Mineral Wells ISD pending an investigation into whether she violated district policy.

The mother said this all started Monday when McDonald, of Cool, made a comment about the child’s necklace, wondering what it was, said the mother. She said her child replied, “It’s similar to a rosary.”

“She asked her what religion she was and [the child] told her ‘Catholic’ and that’s when [the teacher] got the pamphlet, ‘Are Roman Catholics Christians?,’ out of her back pocket,” said the mother.

She said her child told her McDonald handed the pamphlet to her classroom aide, a student, to hand to the child. She also, according to her child, laid some similar pamphlets across her desk and said, ‘Take as many as you want’ [to the class]. She asked two Hispanic kids if they were Catholic and then they said ‘yes’ and two more pamphlets were given to the aide to hand to those students.”

But she said her child saw other topics, including one against another religion, too.

“On the back of every pamphlet it has ‘Cool Assembly of God’ with the address and telephone number and ‘Rev. Marsha McDonald, pastor’ and ‘God bless you.’” she said. “The fact that you would hand that to a 12-year-old is unbelievable and very disrespectful. I’m glad my daughter didn’t really read it – I hope not.”

When asked if this was typical at another Assembly of God church, Gary Word, lead pastor at Cityview Community Church of the Assemblies of God in Mineral Wells, called type of activity “outside the box,” but added that he can only speak for his church, since each is autonomous, and overseen by the Assemblies of God.

Handing out pamphlets, like those McDonald reportedly handed out last weekend and in class Monday, is “not something I would condone,” Word said. “For this local Assembly of God church, that’s not something that we do.”

“Our belief is in Jesus Christ, in him being crucified and raised from the dead on the third day,” he said. He added that they teach specifically about this and “we’re not going to teach against another religion.”

Father Balaji Boyalla of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, where McDonald reportedly handed out pamphlets Oct. 15, declined to comment.

“The Catholic Church faces challenges locally and worldwide from time to time,” said Fort Worth Diocese Director of Communications Pat Svacina. “It’s something that goes back to the time of Jesus.”

“Those type of matters we take seriously. We reinforce that we are a church Christ formed, built on the rock that is Peter, and believe that the proper authorities should take action,” he said of cases where people have committed a violation of law or policy.

“We are a melting pot of people – all makes, colors, shades and backgrounds – and have a tolerance of people of a lots of religions,” Svacina said of the demographics of the United States and Texas.

From time-to-time, he said people will see anti-religious information shared.

“We’re seeing it in the religious cycle and see it with all religions. The Mormons are seeing it right now. Others see it too, both Christian and non-Christian religions,” he said. “It’s something that has not gone away,” he added, with a reminder, “The U.S. is more tolerant than any place in world of different religions and beliefs.”

Svacina encourages parents to reinforce their belief in their religion and added, of his, “Catholicism has a rich 2,000-year history and is one of the best recognized religions in the world.”

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