The Davis Board of Education may revise a religion policy to bar school volunteers from wearing name tags and using religious titles, but LDS Church officials say missionaries will no longer volunteer in classrooms.
Following concerns that volunteer LDS missionaries were proselyting to students, the board voted Tuesday to act on the matter later this month.But Don LeFevre, spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, said Wednesday the missionary department's policy is for volunteer projects to be on a short-term basis only. Ongoing tutoring of students in the classroom does not constitute short term, he said.
Missionaries, of which the LDS Church has more than 56,000 around the world, have been volunteering in the communities they serve for more than a decade.
Volunteer service for missionaries will continue, but "ongoing service in schools will no longer be approved for our missionaries," LeFevre said.
School board President Barbara Smith says the board still will consider the proposed policy revision despite the church's stance.
"The position of the committee was that a representative of a church as an institution should not wear the clothing that identifies them as such," she said Wednesday. "The committee still provides a viable proposal."
Under the proposed policy, all school volunteers would have to wear district-approved name tags and be addressed by their first name and Miss, Mr. or Ms. Volunteers would not be allowed to wear items - like clergy collars or missionary name tags - that designate the person as affiliated with a certain religious organization.
"We don't feel it's legally necessary or educationally proper to throw the baby out of the bath water and ban volunteers from religious organizations," said David Doty, Davis School District attorney. "But it may be appropriate to require those coming in official clothing . . . to take that clothing off at the time they volunteer in the schools."
Doty helped oversee a committee of 30 who drafted the proposal, which would be a first in Utah. The committee included parents, school staff and clergy from various denominations. Proposed revisions have the support of the Anti-Defamation League and Utah chap-ter of the American Civil Liberties Union, Doty said.
But Chris Allen, Utah director of the Society of Separationists, says missionaries, who are trained to preach, threaten separation of church and state.
"People send their children to school trusting they won't be subjected to religious indoctrination," said Allen, who called the proposal a lightning rod for lawsuits. "This, I think, betrays that trust and puts their kids in a shoving match between religious affiliations."
Superintendent Darrell White said staff training and supervision would help enforcement efforts. But Doug Bates, state director of school law and legislation, says that legally, the proposal falls in the gray.
"The courts have never addressed that kind of a question directly," Bates said. "I don't know if a policy prohibiting wearing those kinds of things would be enforceable if someone wanted to challenge it . . . (the issue) really needs be addressed with the church causing the offense, not in school (policy)."
Representatives of churches have been called to serve their communities as part of a nationwide push for voluntarism. LDS missionaries have volunteered in a handful of Davis schools for at least two years but also help out elsewhere.
Davis School District policy, implemented last year with the stipulation it would be revisited annually, prohibits volunteers from proselyting at school.
The proposal would prohibit volunteers from wearing apparel that could be interpreted to "designate the wearer as an official representative of a religious or-gan-i-za-tion," including a clergyman's collar or church name tag.
Crucifixes, yarmulkes, CTR ("Choose The Right") rings worn by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other personal religious expressions could be worn.
"We believe the language proposed in this policy is middle ground," school board member William Moore said.
Parent Glen Schlotterbeck calls the proposal a step in the right direction but wants assurance that those preaching in schools would be punished. He also suggests volunteers sign a form stating they understand policy before volunteering and that they be constantly monitored.
Schlotterbeck, whose 10-year-old daughter attends East Layton Elementary, learned last December that a missionary eating lunch with students answered philosophical questions about a CTR ring. He complained to the district. Other groups, including the Humanists of Utah and Anti-Defamation League, also wrote letters expressing concern.
"That's church doctrine as far as I'm concerned," Schlotterbeck said, adding students often applaud missionaries in the halls. "How does that make children . . . of different faiths feel if they don't want to be part of that spectacle?"
School board member Cheryl Phipps laments that clergy titles and garb are not viewed as an issue of respect.
"I feel sorry that in our lives we create such a place that religion is a divisive issue," she said.
Missionaries have not been volunteering at East Layton Elementary since February in light of the controversy, said Judy Porter, assistant principal. Those helping hands have not been replaced.
"It does affect schools," Porter said. "We've missed them. We can always use volunteers. Any time you get one-on-one help for children it really is helpful for them."