Topeka Bishops from three major Christian denominations Saturday said the state should focus on education and poverty and steer away from hot-button issues.
The religious leaders led a daylong conference on education attended by about 125 people at Grace Episcopal Cathedral.
The purpose of the meeting, they said, was to get people energized and interested in public education and other issues, such as the plight of low-income Kansans.
"We want to make sure that all children and youth have access to good programs of education," said the Rev. Gerald Mansholt, bishop of the Central States Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
The Right Rev. Dean Wolfe, of the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas, and the Rev. Scott Jones of the United Methodist Church of Kansas, also helped lead the event.
Mansholt said part of the purpose of the meeting was to counter efforts by other churches that have focused on issues such as gay marriage.
"There have been voices from some of the religious extremes who have tried to focus much of the energies of the state on hot-button issues without paying attention, and giving a voice to what we think are some of the critical issues, in the area of education, for instance," he said.
Just a few blocks away in the Statehouse, House Republican leaders were putting together an alternative education plan that provided less funds than ones passed by the full House and Senate.
The Kansas Supreme Court has declared the school finance system unconstitutional because it shortchanges all students, especially those from low-income districts. Lawmakers have convened their wrapup session to address the issue.
But the bishops said they wouldn't weigh in on individual plans nor tell people whom to vote for in elections later this year.
"We do want people in our denominations to vote and be involved in the process, to run for election, to be active in school boards, to be involved as much as possible," said Wolfe.
Jones added, "We think public education provides a way to address issues of poverty and opportunity for all children wherever they are. This is a gathering of people saying there are Christians who support public education for very good and faithful reasons."
John Lillard Burch, a bioscience investor from Lawrence, who has been a vocal supporter of teaching evolution, attended the conference.
"I'm very glad to see some signs that the larger, mainline Christian churches are starting to mobilize and engage on the question of public education," Burch said.
State Board of Education member Janet Waugh, D-Kansas City, also was there. She voted against science standards that criticized evolution. Those standards, however, were approved 6-4.
She said the conference was "exciting."
"Supporting science is not in conflict with being a Christian," she said.
More about school finance
- Webcast of live arguments before the Kansas Supreme Court (requires Windows Media Player)
- Brief of the Montoy suit (.pdf)
- Timeline of events in school finance lawsuit
- 6News video: School finance bill to face court
- Plaintiffs: School finance bill fails grade (06-13-06)
- State wants high court to dismiss school suit (06-02-06)
- Legislature approves school finance plan (05-10-06)
- Chat with Bob Corkins, Kansas Education Commissioner (02-02-06)
- House roll call on $148.4 million school finance plan (07-07-05)
- Supt. Weseman's contingency plan (07-06-05)
- More about school finance »
- Conference Committee on Senate Bill 549
- House bill info
- Senate bill info
- Kansas public schools cost study
- Kansas public schools cost study executive summary
- Public Education Finances 2004 (.pdf)
- Senate roll call on $148.4 million school finance plan
- Supreme Court's Show Cause Order (07-02-05)
- Supreme Court's Order Denying Extension (.pdf)
- Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 1603 (.pdf)
- Supplemental Note on Resolution No. 1603 (.pdf)