Philip Rowley says he's not trying to cause a ruckus.
He just wants Tintic School District to join the rest of the state's public school system in offering release time for religious studies - even though Tintic High has an early morning LDS seminary class.Rowley, president of the Santaquin Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, presented his case to the Tintic Board of Education last week.
"I believe seminary instruction or religious instruction helps in today's world where there is chaos on all sides with various issues," Rowley said in a telephone interview. "We need to have a good set of values. I think religious institutes, whether Latter-day Saint or Catholic or Methodist, help formulate those values."
Utah school districts are not required to offer release time, or seminary, said Doug Bates, director of law and legislation for the State Office of Education.
Tintic school board members rejected the proposal last year. Tintic High is situated in Eureka, Juab County, a community with large numbers of Methodists and Catholics in addition to LDS Church members.
"On Sunday mornings we're Mormon, Catholic and Methodist and the rest of the week, we're Eurekans, working together," said school board member Ronald Nelson. "This could possibly change that feeling amongst the community."
While Rowley's proposal would require an off-campus facility, he would offer it to other religions for release time.
The school board has established a 14-member committee of school representatives and those from the three faiths, Nelson said. Should the committee so determine, release time at the earliest date could be offered fall 1999.
Tintic High's early morning seminary program has been in place for decades, Nelson said. The school tries not to schedule activities or practices over seminary's before-school slot.
The program enrolls 19. But Rowley believes more than 60 students are interested in release time, referring to his survey of LDS families attending Tintic High. About 20 of the interested are from Utah County's Elberta, Genola and Goshen and Tooele's Vernon communities, and district buses can't deliver them to Eureka in time for seminary.
Students in those communities attend Tintic under a three-year-old rule relaxing district borders to boost Tintic's enrollment. The release-time request has hovered over school board business for two years.
"In my opinion, if that's (release time) where their priority is, then maybe they should go back to their own districts where they can get release time," Nelson said.
While Tintic religions live in harmony, LDS Church members were not part of the mining town's landscape in the Deseret Territory, Bates said. The same was the case in old Park City.
"Tintic exists because it wasn't Mormon," Bates said.
Deseret's schools were grouped into about 200 academies, based on stakes or congregational groups, Bates said. The academies were created by LDS Church President Brigham Young to keep children out of federal public schools.
But Deseret Territory agreed not to have LDS parochial schools at statehood in 1896. About 20 years later, the 200 school districts merged into 40, Bates said. But because Park City and Tintic did not wish to merge with LDS communities, and vice versa, they were left alone.
Park City School District offers release time.
And Rowley intends to have it in Tintic.
"The school board is trying to address all of the issues and be fair to all denominations," he said. "I believe it's a constitutional right in the state of Utah to request release time.
"We won't give up."