Officials of the Public School Employees in Sunnyside, Washington, have ordered a part-time school bus driver and Pentecostal pastor to send his annual dues to the American Civil Liberties Union, despite his religious objections to the national organization and its opposition to school prayer.
The Rev. Ivan Poisel, pastor of the Church of God Pentecostal congregation, has asked the union to donate his $15 in dues to a local food bank called Second Harvest. But union officials have rejected his request. Both parties are expected to appear at a hearing next month before the state’s Public Employee Relations Committee (PERC), which will decide where Mr. Poisel’s money will go. PSE has gone before the state’s employee relations committee several times. In most cases, PERC has ruled in favor of the employees, allowing them to send their dues to a county food bank, a local Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program and a local Crisis Pregnancy Center.
“I feel like this is religious persecution because I’ve taken a stand,” Mr. Poisel said in an interview June 5. “The union’s demands are ridiculous.”
The issue centers on a state law that requires union officials and public-school employees who identify themselves as religious objectors to mutually approve a charity before any dues are sent to support it. PSE, which represents about 26,000 Washington state school employees, requires public-school employees to either be union members or pay mandatory fees. State and federal law protect religious liberty by allowing people to become “objectors” and designate a charity to receive 100 percent of their dues.
“Cases like Rev. Poisel’s are all too common,” said Bob Williams, president of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, a public-policy-research organization that is overseeing the pastor’s case. “Union officials don’t care about accountability because they have a monopoly over workers.” [Wash. Times 6/6/02]