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materials, and conference and speaking fees. Although it is now legally and fiscally separate from the Illinois-based institute, IACC founder Tom Hill, CEO of oil and gas company Kimray Inc., sits on the institute’s advisory board, as does San Antonio millionaire and ultraconservative James Leininger, who spreads his considerable financial largesse among right-wing political candidates. [See, “Wrath of the Soccer Moms,” March 24, 2006.] U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson, a Republican from the Texas 3rd District, is the chairman of the board of directors; he twice recognized Gothard and the institute on the House floor and entered his hallelujahs into the Congressional Record. Menzel says the IACC’s motive to build communities and families is open and earnest: “There are people who assume there is a hidden agenda to infiltrate governments. We’re not going to subvert or overtake anything?’ Except perhaps the Constitution. While Burleson’s Character City certificate is emblazoned with a pledge that reads in part, “I will always uphold the Constitution,” City Councilman Stuart Gillaspie, who also sits on the Character Council and is the son of Lighthouse Church Pastor Gloria Gillaspie [see “The Passion of Johnson County,” May 21, 2004] says the modern courts have misconstrued the document, which Christian Reconstructionists interpret to mean the state can’t interfere with religion, not vice versa. “There is no such thing as separation of church and state,” Gillaspie says. “That’s taking a page out of Christian right rhetoric?” counters Jeremy Learning, spokesperson for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. “Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, the federal courts have cited that metaphor, and it’s been upheld by the courts, even by judges appointed by Republicans.” For citizens to enjoy freedom of religion, they must also have the option to have freedom from religion. Any attempts to unite church and state, such as publicly stating that character traits are biblically based, could set up Burleson for a lawsuit. Although the city hasn’t directly funded any Character First! programs, such statements, Learning says, “undermine their position that it is a secular project.” Mayor Ken Shetter, who won his second two-year term in May, is more circumspect. He disagrees with Gillaspie, whom he defeated by 24 votes in the 2004 mayoral race. Shetter says that the Character City program wasn’t an issue in the contest, but that separation of church and state was. Shetter ran newspaper ads announcing his support for the constitutional principle, while Gillaspie rallied his base around opposition to it. “It is the city’s position that we will honor and abide by the law of separation of church and state,” Shetter says. “The Supreme Court has clearly interpreted that, and it is required by the First Amendment?’ That’s not Shetter’s only issue with the Character program. While he supports raising awareness of accountability in government, he is bothered by the way Character First! defines certain character traitsparticularly obedience. Obedience figures largely in the Character materials. In the book, How to Build Character as a Family, obedience is mentioned no less than 10 times in a 68-page discussion of character traits, and is described as a protective force. Security: “I will look to my authorities for protection?’ Flexibility: “I will respect the decisions of my authorities.” Honor: “I will obey cheerfully.” Justice: “I will respect the authority of the law?’ Loyalty: “I will not mock authorities?’ Obedience: “I will obey my authorities immediately.” Enthusiasm: “Not only does enthusiasm brighten the face and give light to the eyes, but it also acts as a natural medicine that builds strong and thick bones.” Each character trait also has an opposite. The opposite of obedience is willfulness, which Shetter says might be desirable for some employees. “I don’t want a city manager who will do whatever City Council says?’ he says. “And if I hire a finance director in charge of auditing, I want someone with a degree of willfulness?’ Despite the authoritarian tone of the training materials, Menzel contends “we’re not trying to dictate what morals or ethics are. If a community says, we don’t want to talk about obedience, then don’t. We’re not hitting people over the head with character two-by-fours.” Character trainer Schad, who served a term as a justice of the peace, teaches the program to court-referred truant students and their parents, who can take the class instead of paying a fine. “When I was a JP, it was a shock to me to see the students didn’t honor their parents or the school authorities?’ Schad says. “We don’t teach blind obedience. We teach them how to appeal to authority, about punishment and forgiveness, and continued on page 18 JULY 14, 2006 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13