Prayer in schools?

School board candidates differ on separation of church and state

Story updated Oct. 12, 2011

Sequim Gazette

A question posed at a Democratic club debate showed differences in school board candidates Walt Johnson and Stephen Rosales’ opinions on the separation of church and state.

Moderator Pat Johansen said she asked a question regarding the concern of some parents that religious instruction might be creeping into schools.

“(Rosales) wished we could start every day at school with a prayer,” she said.

In a Sept. 16 interview following the Sept. 14 debate at Pioneer Memorial Park, Rosales called evolution an “opinion” and said he believes in creationism and wouldn’t have a problem with it being taught in schools.

Johnson said evolution is a basic established principle.

“You can’t teach biology without teaching evolution,” the incumbent said.

Vince Riccobene, director of curriculum and instruction for the Sequim School District, said school policy dictates how the subject is approached.

“In our science courses, we only cover scientific topics and do not include creationism because it’s a theological subject,” he said.

On the question of whether or not prayer should be allowed in schools, Johnson said it would be bad for religion to be supported by government.

“We are a diverse country and we have people in our schools with all kinds of religious backgrounds … how could you have a prayer in school that didn’t insult someone?” he asked, adding the only prayer that wouldn’t insult anyone would be meaningless. “What’s the point of that?”

Johnson said he believes the Constitution provides for the separation of church and state.

Rosales said he believes in prayer in school and there already is prayer in schools.

“My daughter prays,” he said. “She passes every test she takes.”

Rosales said the topic is a “non-issue” and he wants to focus on creating all-day kindergarten and improving reading and writing before adding anything to the school curriculum.

Reach Amanda Winters at


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