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
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
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
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
"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."