By JASON SMATHERS
JANESVILLE — Although the CRES Academy has removed all materials suggesting it requires its students to complete a faith-based recovery program, the Freedom From Religion Foundation claims the school continues to violate the separation of church and state.
CRES coordinator Carrie Kulinski said the school has scrubbed its website and internal documents of any language stating that students are required to attend a 12-step addiction-recovery program, which asks participants to accept and rely upon God.
Kulinski said 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous are just one outside-counseling option, and the choice hinges on what works best for students, personally and financially.
“AA has proven effective for many people, and that’s another support they can choose,” Kulinski said. “But by no means is it required. I mean, I’ve worked in drug treatment for 10 years, and I know that everyone’s recovery is individual.”
Janesville School District attorney David Moore sent a letter April 28 to the Freedom From Religion Foundation noting the changes to documents and asserting that CRES never required 12-step counseling.
In a May 27 response, the foundation’s attorney, Patrick Elliott, said the school still is violating the Constitution’s prohibition on state sponsorship of religion.
Citing internal documents from the school and public statements by Kulinski that the 12-step program was a requirement, Elliott said the school seems to integrate the program into the curriculum and that removing requirements from its documents will not change that.
“I think the taxpayers of Wisconsin, who pay to run this school, deserve to know what’s going on,” Elliott said. “What’s happened and the reaction seems to be more concealing things and things not adding up with what we know.”
Kulinski said the statements were a mistake.
“We do not require AA meetings,” Kulinski said. “If that was written or said, it was a mistake. We’ve never required it.”
Elliott wrote in his letter that the school cannot continue housing the school in St. John’s Lutheran Church because the cross on the building and other religious symbols throughout the building are unavoidable. Moore noted in an earlier letter to Americans United for Separation of Church and State that the school is housed in a connected but separate building, not the main church.
Moore will meet with the district and CRES administration soon to formulate a response to the foundation’s May 27 letter.
Marge Hallenbeck, the school’s outgoing director of at-risk and multicultural programming, said she plans to make one suggestion.
“Eliminating AA totally,” Hallenbeck said. “It will not be discussed in the program. That’s my take, anyway.”
Hallenbeck said that would not prevent students from attending 12-step programs on their own.
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