Hope Springs…from a Public School Principal

04 Oct

Y’all are not going to believe this. Well, some of you may.

RechpicA dear friend of mine, Alan Stewart, is a longtime pastor in the Mayberry-esque East Tennessee town of Soddy-Daisy. His church has become known in recent years for its crazy-effective Vacation Bible School programs, which Alan wrote and based on the public domain characters from those incredible children’s tales written by Christians – Beauty and the Beast, Wizard of Oz, The Little Mermaid, and Peter Pan – after realizing several years of other VBS programs had been entertaining, but not effective.

Alan and the church are a go-to resource when the town needs, well, anything. Food, shelter, counsel, money, a listening ear, an answer to a troubling situation. They are what the church is supposed to be, at least in so much as I’ve known them the past few years.

Alan was asked by Sale Creek Middle and High School, a local school, to speak at their 9/11 Tribute last month. He diligently prepared a speech and delivered it on September 11. You can read it by clicking Address for Sale Creek Middle and High School.

A couple of weeks later, one of the Department of Education’s attorneys received a letter from the National Freedom From Religion Foundation. I could describe it, but it’s so much better to let them speak for themselves – see the letter by clicking FFRF Letter.

Alan – and I’ve gotta say this is one of the reasons I thoroughly enjoy working with him – read the letter carefully and spent some time praying and thinking about it before memorializing a reaction. He then crafted a response. Again, it’s WAY better to let a letter speak for itself. Click Rechoboth Response to read it.(You really should read it…if only to smile. Widely.)

Now we get to the part that has me grinning and shaking my head…and entertaining hope for our country.

salecreekmhThe two letters have become the talk of the school, and the town. (Small towns are both comforting and frustrating that way.)  The students are asking questions, wondering if Alan did, indeed, trample all over some constitutional right and if they should be offended or if the NFFR folks are trampling on Alan’s rights…and they should be offended.

The principal – and I am serious that we have to send this principal about forty-thousand “atta-boys” for even thinking of this, much less doing it – assigned the students the task of researching the issue and writing a paper espousing who is right and who is wrong (constitutionally speaking).

This PUBLIC SCHOOL PRINCIPAL basically said to the students, “You’re going to research, learn, think about what you’ve learned, and form an educated opinion. I will not tell you what to think.”

To Principal Tobin Davidson: I have endured quite a bit of chiding and snide looks since putting my son in a public school. I’m told he’ll be indoctrinated by Common Core and robbed of his ability to think for himself. Stripped of his right to pray. Treated harshly for being a Christian. That may well be in some schools (which is a whole ‘nother blog post).

You, however, have given me hope today.

You have renewed my faith that education can be applied at the local level, in creative ways, in public schools, to produce independently-thinking citizens grounded in Constitutional knowledge.

I’ve read the speech. I’ve read the letters. I’ve read the Constitution. I’m excited and hopeful I’ll get to read the students’ papers. THIS, friends, is why we have public education – to produce a citizenry educated in the formation and guiding principles of this country, to think about those principles, and apply them.

Bravo, Alan Stewart, for shepherding a church that is a true resource and voice of sound wisdom to the hard questions.  And bravo, Principal Davidson. Thank you for the hope, sir.


Posted by on October 4, 2013 in The Misc Bucket


26 responses to “Hope Springs…from a Public School Principal

  1. Mike Newsom

    October 4, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    Thank you SO MUCH for noticing Alan and Tobin standing for the right thing! Alan is my pastor and good friend, and we play ball toether. He is a true man of God, and I am challenged and encouraged by him by every sermon. If you ever have a chance to hear him speak, he will have your attention from the word go. Tobin is also a friend, and taught and coached both of my children before becoming principal at Soddy Middle School, and then ‘coming home’ back to Sale Creek as principal. We are very fortunate to have him as well in our community as an educator, and role model. Thank you again, and please keep both men, as well as our church in your prayers in regards to the issue with the FFRF.

  2. Rebeca Seitz

    October 4, 2013 at 11:19 pm

    My pleasure, Mike. As the parent of a child in public school (the other child is in private school), I just loved hearing about this. Here’s hoping it encourages other parents!

  3. Vanessa downs

    October 5, 2013 at 7:59 am

    Awesome response by Pastor Aan Stewart! Christians are definitely being persecuted today. Way to take a knowledgeable stand.

    • David Davey

      October 5, 2013 at 3:29 pm

      More like More people are seeing the light. “The Light of reality”. Again we see Christians attempting to brainwash our children with their incredible children’s tale.

      • Rebeca Seitz

        October 5, 2013 at 6:20 pm

        Hi, David. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m curious – what part of this post led you to believe Christians are attempting to brainwash children?

      • Charles

        October 6, 2013 at 12:56 am

        The guy has some serious issues. First he claims a world without religion would be a better world. Not knowing that Hitler and Stalin were both Atheist and both brought about a lot of death in the name of nothing. Further down his page you can see him post that “Pagans are just that awesome” or something similar to that, showing that he does indeed have a religious belief. Its funny because he wants to attack someone’s religious beliefs but I do not see anyone here claiming he is wrong or attempting to do the same as he. His hate is as clear as can be. Its hate like his that leads to death and war, not his or anyone else’s religious beliefs. I certainly will not attack others of his religion based on his actions out of respect for the fact that bad people use any excuse to justify their hate, even religion.

  4. Shelia Nelson

    October 5, 2013 at 9:19 am

    Thank you Alan!!!!!!! I hope revival begins in my Mayberry-esque small town! I have heard Alan preach many times and one particular sermon stands out in my memory. In that sermon he stated “wisdom is common sense blessed by God”. There is an appalling lack of wisdom in our nation today and we, as Christians, need to stand up and speak the truth in love. My grandchildren attend Sale Creek Middle School and I would like to thank Principal Tobin Davidson too.

  5. marilyn

    October 5, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    Pastor Stewart,

    Your response to Mr. Seidel’s letter was unbelievable!!! It was great! I really enjoyed how you stated the facts as they were in the Declaration! I also believe that this nation is going down hill and that Bible teachings need to be given to our children! We Christians are definitely being persecuted and our rights are being taken away! I hope that you keep on spreading the word of God as you are doing, so that our children can choose the path that their lives are going to take!

  6. Ken Duggan

    October 5, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    Good stuff Rebeca. Alan sent me both letters, theirs and his response, and he was forthright but courteous. Thanks for writing a good word about pastors and Christian educators. We don’t get much good press if you haven’t noticed.

    • Rebeca Seitz

      October 5, 2013 at 6:23 pm

      It’s my honor to do so, Ken. Thanks for the work you do!

  7. stacey

    October 5, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    Food for Mr. Davidson! He used the Common Core principals of applying TEXT to an issue so that students could read and think for themselves. My students have started reading the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution and we have been discussing what rights are being taken away slowly and steadily.

    • Rebeca Seitz

      October 5, 2013 at 6:17 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Stacey – and even more for having your students read the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution, and giving them room to think and discuss in light of current events.

  8. Martha

    October 5, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    Wonderful!!!! I have read this thanks to my niece who lives near you. I grew up saying the Pledge in school and having prayer at lunch and for special events such as graduation. I am lucky to live in a little backwoods town that the churches pretty well run the the town. We have a God present in our town….. We have a motorcycle gang that is motivated by thier love of God and all he stands for. We have public sermons on the square at different times and we have religious music played by several different groups on our square and other places throughout our town. Maybe if there was more people like this minister in that town and every other town in this country we could get back to the country that our founding fathers meant us to be.

  9. Vonda

    October 5, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    BIG THANKS to Rebeca for posting this & a thousand ATTA BOY’S to Pastor Alan for taking the time to address the FALSE accusations of the FFRF- the response was right-on, all facts, full of respect & truth. And a huge thanks to Tobin for his leadership & his deep love for the students, especially when it comes to understanding/representing/standing for truth– I heard a great educator say “it is better to think well, than to be well liked”.. Thank you both again for your courage & boldness!!!!

  10. Christopher Perdue (thebiblestop)

    October 7, 2013 at 11:39 am

    Reblogged this on The Bible Stop and commented:
    Check out this article. Make sure you read both of the letters via the links.

  11. Christopher Perdue (thebiblestop)

    October 7, 2013 at 11:39 am

    Great article. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Betsy R. Hedrick Welch

    October 7, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    God bless you Bro Alan……..God rewards people like you……….Press on toward the mark!!!!! There will come a crowning day…..Hallelujah to His great name!!!!!!! Proud to call you our wonderful Brother in Christ and a dear friend!!!!

  13. Bryson johnson

    October 7, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    Way to go Alan, continue on my friend. I love your letter, i will stand beside you in any fight to proclaim the message and word of God. Again God bless you Alan!!!!!!

  14. A Humble Servant

    October 9, 2013 at 11:33 am

    I don’t understand why some Christians feel the urge to bring their personal religious beliefs into the public sector. It’s not being thoughtful to the non-Christians. Especially at a public school, where the children are forced to listen to this dogma. One’s faith is always present as long as that person stays faithful. Saying a prayer need not be an all-inclusive affair (that’s why God gave us minds with the capable for inner dialogue). There is no need for proselytizing one’s particular religion at a school where many religious views are represented. It’s just plain inconsiderate and shows a lack of respect for all of humanity.

    • Rebeca Seitz

      October 9, 2013 at 12:29 pm

      Hi there. Thanks for your comment. It’s important to note that Alan Stewart did not “feel the urge to bring personal religious beliefs into the public sector.” He was asked to speak. He mentioned the historical event of another time and another place, when towers fell, and people turned to one they saw as an authority (Jesus) and asked the same questions that were asked in this country when the towers fell. Would you be as opposed if he’d used a time when towers fell and Gandhi or Mohammed had responded to the people?

      Secondly, you are incorrect in stating “children are forced to listen to this dogma”. The event did not have required attendance. Students could attend or not as they chose.

      Finally, how is it respectful to require individuals to be silent about their faith (not that Alan was even discussing his faith – he wasn’t)? Silencing someone because you do not agree with them – is that what you are advocating as “respectful”? Allowing individuals to speak only in certain places if you deem their speech offensive? Our country stands for the OPPOSITE of that thought. Speak. Speak freely. Discuss. Discuss freely. Let the strongest thought win out in an honest dialogue and debate. Why is there such fear and intolerance in allowing people to simply speak?

    • Mike Newsom

      October 9, 2013 at 5:36 pm

      Hello, I thought I’d respond to your comments. First, Christianity is NOT a religion, it is a RELATIONSHIP with Jesus. Also, you as well as EVERYONE else is invited to share in this relationship, it is free for the asking! : ) Second, the kids were not forced to participate, it was a voluntary event, in which they could exclude themselves. As far as it being inconsiderate, that would be the LAST thing Pastor Stewart would want to do.
      I think a large portion of the world hates Hearing the truth, just as the Bible says, and is going to attack at any given opportunity. It is strange, because Jesus died for ALL, that includes the Muslims, Buddists, Atheists, Agnostics, etc., but the rejection of Him is their choice, not his. If youmthinkbabout it,cwhat bad, evil thing does Christianity pose on anyone? Christianity is about love, encouragement, and worshipping God, thankful that He paid the price for ALL mankind to go to heaven, all we have to do is accept it, that’s it! A FREE gift! For ALL of us, that’s what it is about. None of us are perfect, and I myself have seen other Christians not act so kind, and I have on occasion been guilty of that as well, but I continue to try and improve, waiting until ai go home with Him forever, I hope you’ll want to be there too!

      • Sideshow Billybob

        October 10, 2013 at 12:45 am

        So, in other words, it’s a religion.

  15. Jason Reynolds

    October 9, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    Reblogged this on Tennessee Christian News and commented:
    Soddy-Daisy pastor fights back against athiests.

    • Sideshow Billybob

      October 10, 2013 at 1:17 am

      You meant violates the Constitution, I’m sure. Also, atheists. E before I.


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