A group of youth pastors in Bainbridge Island, Washington, have been barred from an area middle school following accusations that they were speaking to students about the Christian faith during the lunch hour.
Seattle's KIRO-TV reported that the Bainbridge Island School District has brought in outside investigators to determine if the pastors, who were working as cafeteria supervisors at Woodward Middle School, were guilty of evangelizing during school hours on district property.
“We can't ignore this,” declared school board president Mike Spence. “There are just too many serious issues to consider here. That’s pretty dangerous. It’s a pretty slippery slope I guess I would say.”
According to the allegations, students at the school reported to parents that the pastors were speaking to them about church, with one student calling the presence of the pastors at the school “creepy.”
One of the pastors, Danny Smith, denied the allegations and took exception to the charges that there was anything untoward in their behavior or presence. “That for me is when I take an issue,” Smith said, “when there are personal accusations about my character, creepiness, [or] weirdness. My purpose is to just be with these kids and make them feel valued and to help our community.”
Smith, a pastor at Island Church in the community, emphasized that the only time he spoke about church was when students asked what he did. “My response is, 'I'm a youth pastor.' Even sometimes I say I'm a leader, because most of the kids don't know what a youth pastor is,” he explained. He added that “I don't want to defend myself. I want to defend my motives. It's not about me; it's about why I'm there. It's not for evangelizing and it's not for proselytizing or recruiting.”
One parent of an eighth-grade student at the school called it “a very dicey situation. I think they have to be really careful what they say.”
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