H.S. sorry after two Eagles promote Christian concert

Updated: October 27, 2005, 4:29 PM ET
Associated Press

NEWARK, Del. -- The principal of a public high school apologized to parents for allowing a Christian-themed assembly that featured two Philadelphia Eagles players, saying he was misled about what the presentation would cover.

Principal Emmanuel Caulk of Newark High School wrote in a letter that he expected the talk by players Tra Thomas and Thomas Tapeh to focus on "values, choices and challenges that adolescents face in today's society."

He said promotional material used the name "Tra Thomas Promotional Tour," and he did not know Thomas was founder and spokesman for Athletes United for Christ.

A projection of that organization's logo was shown throughout Tuesday's assembly, and the athletes urged students to attend an upcoming rally and concert at a Philadelphia-area Christian center.

Some students and parents complained.

"As a parent of a child in a public school, I am uncomfortable with the fact that an evangelical organization can come into a public assembly that is a promotional event for an evangelical Christian concert," Becky Ashley told The (Wilmington) News Journal.

Thomas said he assumed everyone knew his promotional tour was connected to his organization, but he has heard similar complaints after speaking at other public schools.

"What we're trying to do is to help the kids make better decisions in life. I guess I understand," why some people objected, he said, "because you have other religions there. But we're not preaching to the kids."

Promoter Angela Brown said she had made it clear what Thomas would be talking about and the organization with which he was affiliated.

Caulk disputed that.

Drewry Fennell, executive director of the of the Delaware chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said such miscommunication reflects a nationwide trend.

"Organizations like this one across the country are gaining access to schools through the famous people and entertainment value and then using those opportunities to proselytize," she said. "These organizations sometimes take advantage of the schools' desire to provide compelling experiences for their students."

Thomas said he's just trying to help.

"I'm just trying to get them to identify with me, the person, rather than just Tra Thomas, the football player, so we can relate to each other better," he said. "And my Christianity is a big part of what I am."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press