Scientology Crime Syndicate

Article published October 14, 2000

Program for confrontation
Church's ban on TV has Perrysburg students leaving their classrooms

The Rev. Ray Tinsman, pastor of the Dayton Church of God, says that television has no place in a holy life. BLADE PHOTO BY JEREMY WADSWORTH


The Rev. Ray Tinsman will talk on a cellular phone, listen to the radio, and even use a computer, but his personal technology line stops at the television set.

As a minister in the Church of God (Restoration), Mr. Tinsman teaches against television viewing, a doctrine he had to defend this week before the principal of Perrysburg Junior High School.

One of Mr. Tinsman’s congregation members is embroiled in a dispute with the principal - and her ex-husband - over whether her children should be allowed to leave the classroom when a television is on or a film is being shown.

The children’s father opposes having his children leave the classroom, and because he has court-ordered jurisdiction over the youngsters’ education, the school has claimed it must take his side.

In the meantime, the students were being disciplined for leaving class under the truancy provisions in the school’s code of student conduct. Both 13-year-old DJ and 14-year-old Carlotta spent Oct. 6 in the Wood County Juvenile Detention Center, where the schools’ supervised suspension program is located. But on Thursday, Principal Patrick Calvin, who met with Mr. Tinsman on Monday, decided to withhold further disciplinary action while the parents and school seek a resolution together

The children’s mother, Selena Maurer, became a member of the Dayton Church of God when she separated from David Maurer in 1993. Since then, she said, she and the couple’s five children have embraced the church’s teaching on television, which includes prohibitions against video games and movies. Even before that, she said, she monitored her children’s television viewing.

"For me, religion has nothing to do with this," Mr. Calvin said. "There’s a court order that says the father is in charge of all their educational decisions and he wants them to be in class, all classes, participating in a regular public education setting." This includes the school’s daily Channel One "news" broadcast televised at the start of each school day. The program, which contains advertising aimed at students in grades 6-12, has been criticized for its commercial exploitation of schoolchildren.

Mr. Maurer, a member of Lakeview United Brethren Church in Camden, Mich., where he is the Sunday school superintendent, said he believes that by being exposed to what is on the television his children could learn how the rest of the world lives, then make their own decisions about it.

"There’s no place where you’re going to hear 100 per cent good stuff, even in the church. You have to be able to have some kind of a brain to take the good and throw out the rest. And if you’re not allowed to hear what other people believe and what other people are like, you’re not going to be able to see how different a Christian viewpoint is from a worldly viewpoint."

Mr. Tinsman said his church’s teaching against television is based on such biblical passages as Romans 1:28-32, which talks about the evils of the world, those that do them, and those who take pleasure in others doing such things.

He said television was likely invented out of good motives and can have a good purpose but that because so much of its content today consists of violence and improper sexual conduct, the church considers it best not to view it at all. It takes a similar position with the Internet, allowing adults to use it only as part of their jobs.

"I myself never have watched a movie in my life," Mr. Tinsman said. "I never grew up with TV in the home. I credit most of my social skills to not watching the TV and my clear mind, my pure mind, I credit to not watching TV."

Mr. Tinsman said he believes television discourages the development of social skills in people because they are used to listening to one side and giving no response. He said TV also robs time from families. "Most people who have children do not have a hard time understanding our stand on this. Most of them say they have trouble monitoring it anyhow."

Mr. Tinsman’s church, which grew out of a split in 1910 with the Church of God-Anderson, Ind., allows radios, but only for such uses as listening to the news or weather bulletins. "Because you can’t see it, there is less potential for evil, but we are extremely careful with the radio."

Likewise, he said, church members restrict the use of phones. "We practice carefulness in every area concerning our children. They don’t just grow up. They’re raised."

Mr. Tinsman said church members also dress modestly. Women wear skirts and both men and women wear long sleeves. "People would probably consider us old-fashioned, though we don’t necessarily say that, but we live plain. We all have public jobs and drive cars. We’re not Amish or anything, but we live plain, simple lives."

When it comes to school, most children are either home-schooled or attend private religious schools, but those who have been in public schools have had few problems, Mr. Tinsman said.

"Once we had a little trouble concerning sex education, but we met with the school board and got it worked out. Normally, schools don’t have any problem working together with us on that."

He disagrees with Mr. Calvin that the court order supersedes the religious rights of Miss Maurer and her children and is seeking legal advice.

Ron Rissler, legal coordinator for the Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties organization that frequently handles cases involving religious freedom in public school settings, said, "You can ban content in curriculum, due to religious belief ... But [to challenge] all that comes across a TV set, that might prove a burden on the school."

Mr. Calvin agreed. "There are certain things we can adjust curriculum-wise." For example, he said, a student can opt out of a sex-education class or do an alternative activity in a class dealing with holidays.

Mr. Rissler added, "There are denominations out there that do not want the viewing of the TV screen and that is probably not a bad idea, but in the educational setting, I think the school should monitor it and offer students the opportunity to opt out of some of the programming."


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