Religious Op-Ed written by Ionia Public Schools superintendent causes controversy

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IONIA, Mich. -- An op-ed article in the Ionia Sentinel-Standard is getting a lot of buzz more than a month after it was published.

That's because the religious-based piece was written by the superintendent of Ionia Public Schools.

Ron Wilson has written in the Op-Ed column for years, but many say the the piece last month crossed the line of separation of church and public schools.

The piece, called "Where do you Stand?" was published on August 5 and touches on a number of subjects, including constitutional rights, the Bible, abortion, and atheism.

"He’s calling out members of the community," says Mitch Kahle, a member of Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists (MACRA). "He’s calling out students and teachers based on their religious beliefs, which is absurd but also a violation of the constitution.”

Kahle says his organization filed a complaint with the school board after they started receiving complaints from some Ionia residents a few weeks ago.

“The superintendent obviously has been abusing his position,” says Kahle. "He has been taking a column that he’s using under the auspices of his official position, and he’s been using it to make statements that are derogatory to entire classes of citizens, especially atheists and secular humanists."

Kahle shared his thoughts in a rebuttal piece in the paper, saying while he's not against people expressing beliefs different from his own, the problem in this case was the person who penned the piece.

“He has every right as a private citizen to make whatever statement he likes,” says Kahle. "But in his position as the superintendent, he is required to remain neutral on matters of religion. Which for the most part means keep your mouth shut."

However, not everyone was offended by the piece.

One person wrote a letter to the editor supporting Superintendent Wilson, saying the critique of him is misguided and that Kahle grossly exaggerated the truth about the superintendent insulting almost everyone.

A number of residents also expressed their support for Wilson on Facebook.

“His article was fine. What he wrote was fine, it was truthful it was from his heart," says Lisa Coe, a Ron Wilson defender. "He should be able to write what he believes and just because it’s about God and his faith is no reason for him not to be able to talk.”

FOX 17 reached out to Superintendent Wilson, who declined an on-camera interview but referenced the follow-up piece published Sunday in which he wrote that his column wasn't meant to offend anyone. He also wanted to clarify that the weekly columns are his thoughts and don't necessarily represent the views of Ionia Public Schools, its board of education, employees, or students.

Mr. Wilson also wants everyone to move forward and focus on educating students.

As for Kahle, he plans to meet with the paper on Wednesday.

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6 comments

  • Tom

    “He has every right as a private citizen to make whatever statement he likes,” says Kahle. …”Which for the most part means keep your mouth shut.”

    LOL, you can’t have it both ways.

    When can we go back to a time when people could peacefully debate a topic and in the end, if you couldn’t agree, you moved on peacefully. This time of holding things over your head to be threatening is ridiculous.

  • Mac Woods

    Of course if the superintendent’s name was Abdullas Rafir, and was written from the perspective of sharia, the crickets would be deafening right now.

  • Nelson Brown

    There are so many problems with Superintendent Ron Wilson’s “Where do you stand” viewpoint that it is difficult to know where to start. First, the separation of church and state was a founding principle inherent in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The only significant mention of religion in the Constitution itself prevents any disqualification for office based on religion. Moreover, the key drafters of the Constitutions were not Christians in the sense that Superintendent Wilson probably means. The key drafters were either non-believers or Deists. They were men of the Enlightenment’s focus on the natural rights of man who drew inspiration from the Roman Senate, John Locke, Montesquieu and Rousseau. Regardless, the Constitution was not based on Biblical examples of government. Second, this separation of religion and state should apply to the public school system — and with good reason. Before the Constitution some states had official religions supported by these states, much to the disadvantage of members of other denominations. We do not need denominational fights in schools. Also, once religious promotion starts in the schools, you cannot discriminate against any particular religion. Superintendent Wilson probably thinks that only Christians, most likely Evangelical Protestant, can penetrate school doors, But once the Gideons are allowed to start passing out Protestant Bibles, which is different from the Catholic Bible, then so can Moslems distribute copies of the Koran and the same with other religions, maybe even Unitarians and the dreaded “secular humanists.” Keep religious proselytizing out of public schools. Third, Superintendent Wilson advocates several moral and political positions under the guise of God’s authority that many would reject. Roe v. Wade is the law of the land and not all Christian denominations support repealing it — the United Church of Christ, for example. http://www.ucc.org/justice_womens-issues_reproductive-justice. Many Christians narrowly find morality only in controlling women’s bodies and keeping gays in the closet. Fourth, given the pact with the Devil many Evangelical Christians, like Franklin Graham, made by supporting Trump, the epitome of vulgarity and immorality, because he opposes abortion and LGBTQ rights, those concerned about the absence of “their God” in the schools should better focus on bringing Christ’s message of love, justice and tolerance of differences back into their churches.

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