Three youth pastors working as volunteers in the cafeteria of a Washington state public school have been temporarily banned from the campus and are now being investigated on suspicions that they have been telling students about Jesus.
According to KIROTV.com the three pastors who reportedly also tried to recruit students to Christianity have been asked not to volunteer at the Woodward Middle School in the Bainbridge Island School District until an investigation into the allegations is complete. A spokesperson said an outside contractor was hired to launch a "fact finding" mission into the charges.
At a community meeting over the controversial allegations at the school last Thursday, parents, students and at least one of the pastors debated the matter in an emotional meeting, according to a Komo News report.
Youth pastor Danny Smith denied the allegations brought against him and said he simply volunteered at the school to help the children who mean a lot to him.
"I come here because I know that it's important for every student to know that they each have value and a purpose," he said. "My purpose is still to show each student that they are valued and they have worth."
Some parents argued, however, that they heard from students that the pastors were talking about church and Christianity during the lunch period.
"As a parent, I do want to know who my child has contact with throughout his day," said Dawn Jano.
Citing the investigation underway, school board president Mike Spence said the main concern for him is the separation of church and state. District rules, he explained, cannot bar someone for religious beliefs, but volunteers are not permitted to talk about religion on school grounds.
"We can't ignore this. There are just too many serious issues to consider here," he said. "That's pretty dangerous. It's a pretty slippery slope I guess I would say," he added.
One parent, Darryl Martin, argued that the support of the male volunteers was making a difference in the life of his son at school.
"If some of those volunteers were not there, taking the opportunity to meet my son, and help introduce him to other students, my son would spend most of the year eating lunch by himself," he said.
A date has not been set to complete the investigation but the school district hopes it will be done this week.