Not known as an overtly Christian organization, the YMCA has come under fire in Bakersfield, Calif., where a school district banned the organization’s promotional fliers from its campuses.

The local Y can no longer send fliers home with children because a recent one happened to mention the organization puts “Christian principles into practice,” reports the Bakersfield Californian.

YMCA officials are fuming, the paper reports, and the brouhaha could possibly affect other area school districts.

The offending flier, which a district lawyer claims violates the so-called separation of church and state, promoted upcoming basketball camps sponsored by the Y.

According to the report, the controversy began three weeks ago with a phone call to administrators at Panama-Buena Vista Union School District. A parent complained that Christian values were being promoted in a Salvation Army poster asking for clothing donations, Richard Ceccarelli, the district’s deputy superintendent, told the Californian.

Since the poster didn’t mention the group’s Christian mission, it was deemed appropriate. The incident, however, reportedly sensitized the school district to other possible violations. That’s when the YMCA flier was targeted.

The basketball-camp flier included the words: “To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build spirit, mind and body for all.”

The paper reports district officials called the Y to tell them they could either delete the Christian reference or stop distributing the fliers. The organization chose the latter option.

Ceccarelli said in the past the Y’s fliers did not emphasize Christianity as much.

True, YMCA CEO John Bagala told the Californian. He says he encouraged the Kern County chapter of the Y to return to its Christian roots about four years ago.

“When I started, I put the Christian statement on everything,” Bagala told the paper.

Now, Bagala is standing by what he feels is his organization’s mission.

“We’re not going to take our fliers and revamp them without the mission statement on it,” Bagala is quoted as saying. “It’s always going to be on there.”

Indeed, Bagala vowed to step up the Christian message on each flier by spelling out the organization’s name: Young Men’s Christian Association.

Ceccarelli told the paper he is a Christian and shares the organization’s values, but he also works for a public agency that “is under the tenets of the state constitution.”

Related story:

District to ban Boy Scouts fliers?


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