High school teacher Doug Bengston ends commencement speech with bible quotes and his beliefs about intelligent design

Doug Bengston (Northfield Patch photo by Angela Lauterbach)At Northfield High School‘s graduation ceremony on Sunday, math department chair and teacher Doug Bengston gave the commencement address. He was selected by the senior class. (Northfield Patch photo by Angela Lauterbach, used with permission.)

At the end of his speech, after citing the wonder of elliptical orbits and how they are used in everyday technologies, he said:

I don’t believe the earth, the planets, and the solar system just happened. I believe there is one overall. As you watch the miracle of a newborn baby, I don’t believe it all just happens.

So I tried to gain that inner contentment that only comes from the one above. He designed me, my brain, my heart, and all that I am. And all he’s looking for is love. I’d like to leave you with some verses from the good book that help explains my thoughts.

Bengston then quoted from the bible, including Psalm 46:10; John 14; and Corinthians 2.

I think Bengston was way out of line for including his beliefs about intelligent design and his supporting quotes from the bible. It seemed totally out of place and ruined an otherwise good commencement address.

I’m guessing most members of the School Board, Supt. Chris Richardson, and High School principal Joel Leer are not happy with Bengston for this but, alas, there’s been no public comment on it that I’m aware of.

KYMN has the full audio of the 2011 Northfield High School Commencement but here’s the 2 minute and 49 second segment of the end of Bengston’s address:

Update 06/08 10 am: Here’s a more complete transcription of Bengston’s remarks at the end of his address:

In that class, we studied topics with a solid mathematical basis. The mathematics are circles, parabolas, and ellipses didn’t just happen. It’s always been there. We just happened to discover the stability of what those elliptical orbits offer.

Consider the satellites and how we use them with our national defense. And, oh no, you wouldn’t be able to use your cellphone to call a friend on the other side of the planet.

I don’t believe the earth, the planets, and the solar system just happened. I believe there is one overall. As you watch the miracle of a newborn baby, I don’t believe it all just happens.

So I tried to gain that inner contentment that only comes from the one above. He designed me, my brain, my heart, and all that I am. And all he’s looking for is love. I’d like to leave you with some verses from the good book that help explains my thoughts.

Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” In John 14, “Thomas, a disciple, asked, ‘How do we know the way?’ Jesus says, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” And Paul in writing to the Philippians and to us Minnesotans [ph] in Chapter 2, “That at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth. And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”

Class of 2011, be content with who you are, find the inner peace that will get you through every difficult time and have a joyous life.

In preparing this little message, I came across the quote from Maya Angelou in which she said, “I have learned that people will forget what you said. People will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Live the life you love, love the life you live and may God bless you. Thank you.


  1. Unbelievable. And he claims to be a mathematician!!! I’m surprised he can even teach credibly with his overarching sense of awe and reverence. I wonder if it seems like magic to him that e^(i*pi) = -1. Or even that 2+2=4. Actually, this is so egregious I am nearly unable to articulate my feelings. Consider how you would feel if a biology teacher at the HS stood in front of the class and (holding up a rose) were to pontificate that the perfection of the rose is a mystery that can only be explained by appeal to a higher power and that we cannot pretend to understand that beauty from any other perspective. Would we want someone so ignorant of simple Mendelian genetics teaching biology? I think not.

    It is one thing to stand in church and talk like this, it is another to use the podium at a public school graduation as a pulpit. Whom do I have to grab by the “collar” and harangue over this?

    June 7, 2011
  2. Michelle Hawkins said:

    Of all the things that Northfield youth can and do wrong, from pot & meth to heroin to promiscuity to wearing their pants with their ass hangin out, I’ll take this youngster’s “mistake” any day.

    June 7, 2011
  3. Michelle Hawkins said:

    Oh, he was a teacher! Bad form, truly bad form. This IS a mistake better left to the immature.

    June 7, 2011
  4. Actually, I often attempt to proselytize the mindful peace that comes from understanding the nature of some of the critical algorithms that govern our existence. Simple laws like the genetic algorithm (which I have personally coded and used to solve problems while I was an instructor teaching algorithms). The law of gravity, which I have used to compute orbits for analytical and other, less passive, purposes. The algorithms for growth and the attendant laws of economic behavior. All these give help me achieve the basic peacefulness of the examined life.

    But I do not do so from a position of authority, and usually not with a captive audience. And my insights are subject to experimentation and peer review.

    June 7, 2011
  5. Patty Gallivan said:

    Well…….. before he took us to church we had to endure not only “the rap”, but the blatant and offensive message it sent to the graduating class. They didn’t deserve the belittlement. They weren’t there for a lecture. They were there to celebrate their hard work and accomplishments and they voted for a teacher to stand up and commend them.

    He certainly was the talk of many graduation parties, and they were not conversations of celebration. But let us not, in our anger or frustration, focus on the way we are feeling. Let’s remember the message that 298 students heard.

    June 7, 2011
  6. Neil Lutsky said:

    I sent a note to Joel Leer about the address on Sunday after commencement. Bengston’s comments were clearly inappropriate for the context. The assumptions he seemed to make–that everyone shared a Christian background, that students would be seeking to start families, and the like–ran counter to the respect for diversity one would hope would mark students’ experiences in Northfield High School. I’m sure he meant well, but his comments were unfortunate.

    June 7, 2011
  7. Greg Burnett said:

    Wow, what a way to slap the senior class in the face. Get asked to speak at commencement, a high honor, and use that time to proselytize. Rude, to say the least. He should stick to math, he clearly has no understanding of biology or science.

    June 7, 2011
  8. Griff Wigley said:

    My radar is up for stuff like this because of what I wrote a few months back about Transformation Northfield (TN). Northfield School board member Jeff Quinnell is a member of TN. I don’t know if Doug Bengston is or not.

    Plus, I experienced a bit of Déjà vu when I heard about Bengston’s speech. Back in 2001, Bradlee Dean (recently in the news for his controversial prayer at the Capitol) spoke at the Northfield High School for a drug-abuse prevention talk.

    Commentator Kristine Holmgren wrote about his speech in a column published by the Pioneer Press titled Faith of Our Fathers.

    Like many small towns, our school board is a cozy club of decent, law-abiding hand-holders. The Northfield board consists of sunburned Norwegians, one or two fathers of high-school jocks and several silent, baffled women. They all want to believe in the good intentions of our administration. And they don’t want anyone to get in trouble over the Constitution. Bradlee Dean knows this all too well. He told me so when I phoned him after the event in Northfield.

    “The time is right for my kind of witness,” he said. “The “abstinence only’ money is there, and young people are hungry for the truth. And principals love me. Especially in the small towns. That’s where people are most open to the word of God.”

    June 7, 2011
  9. David Ludescher said:

    I only listened to the 2:49 segment. I didn’t hear anything offensive to any group or person in that short segment.

    June 7, 2011
  10. Raymond Daniels said:

    I listened to it too and saw nothing wrong with it either, but then again, I am Christian. It also maybe a shock to some people here, but maybe a majority of the kids enjoyed the speech. Remember, the kids asked him to speak. I went to a few parties as well, and all the kids I talked to said they enjoyed the speech.

    June 7, 2011
  11. TinaMarie Lugo said:

    Was this commencement address for the audience or for him?

    Since he is a teacher I would expect him to understand that perhaps all the students and their guests may not have the same point of view and being sensitive to those in the audience that might have not appreciated this at a public school graduation ceremony.

    If this speech would have been given when my child graduated from NHS I would have been rather offended. Especially since it does not reflect my belief system. However, I doubt that Mr. Bengston would of cared about that since his words seem to be drive from a place of self motivation and not a respect to the community at large.

    June 7, 2011
  12. Diane Burry said:

    Mr. Bengston also quoted Maya Angelou, “people will never forget how you made them feel”. Listening to his speech, I felt embarrassed and angry. I will not forget this.

    I felt embarrassed because of the unwelcoming and exclusionary views presented. There were people in the audience that are agnostics, atheists, followers of different faiths, and Christians with less narrow views. How did we feel?

    I felt angry because these unwelcoming and exclusionary views were presented in a public forum. High school graduation is not the place for religious polemic.

    Student speakers have their speeches reviewed before presentation. I hope that in the future teachers and other speakers will also have their speeches reviewed, keeping in mind our community values of diversity and openness, and the nationwide value of separation of church and state.

    June 7, 2011
  13. Griff Wigley said:

    Northfield Patch has a partial video of Bengston’s speech posted. At the 2:20 mark he says:

    I propose that you choose to be content wherever you are and whatever is your lot in life. People will let you down. You need to have the intestinal fortitude to rise above the catastrophes of life.

    Where do two young hikers in an Iranian prison for the past three years turn? They have nowhere, and I mean nowhere to turn, but to fall on their knees and pray.

    June 7, 2011
  14. TinaMarie Lugo said:

    What about those in our society that don’t pray at all? I feel rather sad that people of faith assume that everybody has, or shares
    their point of view. Like the old saying goes when you assume you make a blank of you and me.

    June 7, 2011
  15. john george said:

    Bruce- Please tell me which one of your mathmatical formulas actually formed the Earth’s orbit which it describes? Which one formed the Moon’s orbit, or any planet’s orbit, for that matter? What was there first, your formula or the orbit?

    June 7, 2011
  16. David Ludescher said:


    What is your point?

    June 7, 2011
  17. john george said:

    Diane- My kids have long since graduated from NHS, but they battled this same sentiment while they were there. This idea of “separation of church and state” is actually being applied as a separation of church FROM state. What if Mr Bengstom had quoted Confucius or Ghandi or, for that matter, the Great Spirit of the American Indians? Would that have been acceptable? Would those ideas have precipitated such a vehement reaction? It appears that anyone can say what they please to motivate a senior class, EXCEPT something with a Christian basis. Could the graduating seniors be able to exercise their critical thinking skills here? Or must they be protected from ideas that challenge current thnking?

    June 7, 2011
  18. Marni Pumper said:

    I was in the audience and was completely offended.

    First, he insulted the students for the use of their cell phones. Really? I use my phone constantly for work and for fun. How is that wrong and why is this the point of his speech?

    Second, to bring up his creationist and anti-choice beliefs during a public school commencement address is completely inappropriate. Had he simply quoted the bible or anyone/anything else, it wouldn’t have been so bad. I’m not a Christian and don’t need anyone preaching to me.

    Third, this was really just a bad speech. It was poorly organized and rambling. I’m not quite sure what his point was. Stop using cell phones and be a Christian?

    June 7, 2011
  19. David Koenig said:


    I don’t hear anything wrong in the section you have clipped. He is saying what he believes – as commencement speakers are expected to do. Speakers are chosen to share their ideas, history and forward view. That is all that he did.

    The difference between this and the concerns you raised about TN and Rejoice! is that there is no evidence he is trying to use his beliefs to discriminate in a protected setting (employer/employee relationship, for example) or labeling those with whom he disagrees as being ‘against God’.

    The applause at the end seemed genuine.

    I cannot comment on the whole speech because I was not there. But, I would want an invited speaker, especially at an educational institution, to always feel that they can share their beliefs and ideas in an unfettered manner.

    We are teaching our children to think and as long as their grades are not dependent upon sharing the same beliefs as the teacher – and favoritism is not shown to those who share the teacher’s beliefs – I see nothing wrong here.

    June 7, 2011
  20. Diane Burry said:

    It is difficult to balance the stimulation of listening to free expression of differing beliefs, against those values that we as a community are attempting to foster.
    I have no problem with the speaker when he speaks about how he finds contentment through his religion, etc. I have no problem with quotes from the Bible. I do have a problem when he then promotes, through his choice of quotes, his religion as the only way for us to live.
    Quotes about how to live, from whatever source, can be offered, in my opinion. But if someone quoted a saying of Confucius that was not about how to live but instead chose one saying that following Confucius is the only way, I would be offended. (Any by the way, Ghandi was not a religious leader.)
    There are many, many quotes available from the Bible and other religious texts, as well as secular texts, which promote love, cooperation, acceptance, tolerance, kindness, etc, as how we might live our lives. Instead, this speaker chose particularly proselytizing quotes, which alienated some members of the school and city community.
    I stand by my idea of having guest speaker speeches reviewed. What if the speaker decided to speak about living our lives the Aryan way? Living our lives as an Islamic martyr? Stating that we all needed to vote red or blue or tea?
    The speech was inappropriate to the venue, I still believe.

    June 7, 2011
  21. kiffi summa said:

    The wrongness here is what was expressed in some of the comments earlier in this thread…
    Strangely enough, a conversation over lunch today with a former Northfielder recalled the Bradlee Dean incident, and the way the then Superintendent handled that unfortunate incident by sending out a letter to all residents of the school district.
    It was open, it was explanatory, and it spoke about the issue to the community rather that letting it slip by with as little comment as possible.

    There have been far too many incidents which after their occurrence, the attitude expressed is that “well that was wrong, but we won’t let it happen again…”

    But they keep happening; it must not be forgotten that it is not wrong to express one’s POV, but it IS wrong to make anyone who has an opposing POV feel that they are rude, disruptive, or biased for expressing their dissent.

    This should not be ignored, or glossed over; it offers the possibility of an extraordinary teaching ‘moment’. Can NF use it that way? or are ‘they’ just too embarrassed to do so?

    I don’t care what the speaker’s belief system is, but I do very much care when that belief system carries ANY notion that those who believe otherwise are somehow lesser, or “other”.

    June 7, 2011
  22. David Koenig said:


    What if the ‘reviewer’ of a speech didn’t allow things to be said that were offensive to him/her, but were nevertheless present in the community?

    Would the community be better off unaware that offensive sentiments were held by some in the community or troubling actions were being taken by some? Or would allowing those issues to be raised allow the community to challenge them and for individual community members to emphasize what makes them wrong in teaching their own children?

    What happened to Gary Smith when he raised the alarm about Heroin in Northfield? I seem to recall that the early reaction to his press conference was that he should have had someone review and approve it before it was delivered. How many people in the community were not aware of the problem until he raised it – then had very serious conversations with their children?

    June 7, 2011
  23. David Koenig said:

    BTW, I am not equating the beliefs of the speaker with a problem like Heroin. As I stated above, I see nothing wrong with what he said on the clip Griff provided above.

    June 7, 2011
  24. Diane Burry said:

    In the graduation speech scenario, how would you suggest it could/should be handled?
    The student speeches are reviewed. They must meet certain guidelines. I expect that in public schools teachers must also follow guidelines as regards to their words when speaking in their role as public school employees. I am suggesting that those guidelines be extended to guest speakers as well.
    As with bullying, it is important to have strong written,public guidelines stating what is and is not acceptable in school. We don’t teach against bullying by letting people be bullied, and then askinig people to use their judgment. We create a policy aimed at preventing bullying. I am not suggesting that the views of certain people be swept under the table.
    I am contributing to this thread because I feel this is a teachable moment; it is an opportunity to say to our fellow Northfielders (student/teacher/citizen) that we must not only tolerate each other, but respect each other even when we disagree.
    I appreciate that you did not feel anything in the clip was offensive. I was offended, however, as were an atheist I spoke with, a Muslim, and some fellow Christians.
    But more than being offended, I felt let down. I was disappointed that despite the rhetoric of welcoming and inclusive schools, the speaker at graduation was exclusionary.

    June 7, 2011
  25. Kathie Galotti said:

    I heard the speech too, and yeah, at points it did ramble. And I wondered how it was allowed at a public school graduation. So I can’t disagree with any of the criticisms expressed above….EXCEPT to say that Mr. Bengston, for my kid, was one of the (few) good guys–the ones who reached out, who tried to be supportive instead of dismissive, who looked to help kids pass rather than find reasons to fail them. He had my kid during a difficult year (for my kid) and his many little kindnesses were sometimes one of the few reasons to get up and go to school….

    So. I don’t disagree with the idea that the speech turned many off. I can totally see why. On the other hand, I still don’t see Mr. Bengston as rude, uncaring, or domineering. I think he tried to do something outside of his typical experience and it fell flat. For me, that’s about it.

    June 7, 2011
  26. john george said:

    Kathie- Well said! How many more of us have faltered in the same way? I know I certainly have.

    June 7, 2011
  27. Bruce Morlan said:

    Me too, I was perhaps too harsh. But since my particular belief system is almost never discussed, I may have become too sensitive to those slights. Sigh. But John George seems to be weighing in with his usual calm voice, and that is greatly appreciated. As for the “which came first question”, well, that is a debate that involves much more epistemology and cosmology than we really want to try to do here.

    June 7, 2011
  28. Will Oney said:

    There’s a few people saying there was nothing offensive about this speech. What if next year’s speaker happens to be a satanist? Can they inject their own brand of crazy into things, or does it become offensive when you don’t agree with the particular fairytale in question?

    This was not the place for religion and anyone with a little common sense knows that.

    June 7, 2011
  29. Cindy Carey said:

    The senior class voted for Mr. Bengston to speak at their graduation ceremony. Obviously, they like him, they respect him, they trust him. I have attended 4 graduation receptions and have heard nothing but supportive comments. People were excited! I felt great warmth, concern, tenderness and heart=felt wishes for safety and success were being delivered from him. He was sharing his thoughts, his feelings and his heart. He was offering a part of himself to the kids he cares so much about. That is what they asked him to do. Was it appropriate for this event? I think it was very appropriate………I would guess that had he quoted books other than the Bible or spoke values of other beliefs that there wouldn’t be such a fuss.

    I do not know Mr. Bengston. But I do know that when the time comes, I hope he is a teacher to my child. I respect him, and I thank him for sharing his heart and his faith………..

    June 7, 2011
  30. Michelle Hawkins said:

    Would it be offensive or acceptable if a caring, reach out teacher,with personal EXTREMIST muslim views, that while were not brought to the classroom, in a commencement speech they were espoused with all their inflammatories, though the teacher’s heartfelt views?

    If “death to the infidel” isn’t acceptable as a heartfelt view, though firmly believed as an, albeit wingnut fringe, faith, then any other preaching or prostletyzing(sp) is also unacceptable.

    I am a Christian. I go to church, and always have, to get my sermons. If I want to hear preachers of other denominations, I can choose to go to their church.
    If, however I am at a public high school, or in a public forum of any kind where all taxpayers support it’s function, then I find it offensive to have any religious view, mine or not, foisted unannounced, on me.

    It’s not this teacher’s views & beliefs that are in question, it’s his judgement and discernment regardless of how it was received.

    June 8, 2011
  31. My wife and I discussed whether or not to weigh in on this topic yesterday because, although we support Mr. Bengston 100%, we are aware that blog comments very rarely change anyone’s mind, and we didn’t want to be reactionary or inflammatory in our response (because that would do nothing positive to uplift the great name of Jesus and would only make us look like more angry Christians).

    However, I tend to get frustrated at the seeming lack of tolerance of those who hold non-Christian views toward those who do. I struggle to wrap my arms around the idea that talking about your faith is any more proselytizing than advocating that faith be left out of a speech (which is simply proselytizing for a different worldview).

    I am sensitive to the fact that I would be offended by a commencement speaker talking about the ‘facts’ of evolution, or a love of ‘Mother Earth’ but I have to allow for fact that the speaker is democratically elected by the students.

    Plus, on the idea of Mr. Bengston talking about intelligent design, let’s be honest: the students have all been taught a very anti-Christian understand of the world’s origins for many years in school – a 20 minute speech isn’t going to warp anyone’s mind. Also, if our students have not developed the critically thinking skills to sort through the content of a speech than our high school system has failed, and those students are no where near ready to enter a college classroom where the personal views and ideas of professors will be force fed to them in much greater doses than Mr. Bengston had to to offer.

    I would really like to see some of the students enter into this comment section, or be interviewed somehow, to get their reactions.

    June 8, 2011
  32. Phil Poyner said:

    Maybe I’m nitpicking here, but I believe there are ways you can express your faith without appearing to advocate any particular religion. For example, if I were to say “In my life I’ve always found it best to strive to love my neighbor as myself”, would anyone find that offensive? As opposed to, say, “There are certain guidelines I live by, and one can be found in Leviticus 19:18 ‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.'” Maybe the difference in presentation is subtle to most people, but maybe not.

    June 8, 2011
  33. William Siemers said:

    I think it was ok for him speak from ‘the heart’ and also to speak of his faith in Christ. Personally, I don’t even have a problem with his reference to his belief in intelligent design. (Frankly it is refreshing to hear speakers who are not politically correct.) The real problem, as many have pointed out, is that the speech became exclusionary. For Jews, Hindus, Muslims, etc., his closing comment of, “Be content with who you are”, can not be reconciled with his earlier words regarding Christ as the only way to salvation.

    June 8, 2011
  34. kiffi summa said:

    In response to #15… No one is saying that the teacher is a ‘bad’ person, and he may be the most concerned teacher in the whole school in noticing the particular needs of a particular student, but that is simply NOT the issue…

    The sole issue is whether the remarks as spoken were improper because they , once again, implied or even said, that there is one correct belief system, and all others lead down lesser paths.

    June 8, 2011
  35. Stephanie Balvin said:

    THANK YOU for posting this! I had the same thoughts. He is very respected in the schools and community, and I think it’s sad the way people are attacking him.

    June 8, 2011
  36. Kathie Galotti said:

    Agreed, Kiffi. I don’t take issue with the criticisms of the speech, but I guess my point is that I can see a way in which he thought he was “speaking from the heart” and trying to give an inspirational message to kids. Which did not come off well. No question that that didn’t come off well.

    I would also add I didn’t get as much of a sense that he was trying to convert anyone to Christianity, or that there was one correct or better belief system. But, I can still understand how others took offense.

    I was just trying to say, in response to other comments in the “who the hell is this guy” vein, that all of my previous interactions with the guy, as well as those of my son, have been wonderful.

    You’re right, that doesn’t excuse the problems with the address though, and it was never my intention to do so.

    June 8, 2011
  37. Griff Wigley said:

    I’ve added a more complete transcription of Bengston’s end-of-commencement address remarks to the blog post above.

    June 8, 2011
  38. john george said:

    Kathie- Just an encouragement to you, the main idea you posted in 15 was that Mr. Bengston’s life, the way he taught in the classroom and encouraged students, was more important than what he said in a speech to the graduating class. I agree with you wholeheartedly on that point. Also, in thinking about my earlier response, how do any of us really know whether his speech “fell flat” or not? I certainly don’t know his intent behind his remarks, but I think it was very brave of him to share his heart in a setting that would most certainly bring criticism. Sometimes it costs us something to stand up for what we believe in the face of those who disagree with us.

    June 8, 2011
  39. David Ludescher said:


    The primary issue is whether Bengston’s right of free speech trumps other concerns. Your issue is more properly framed as stating a situation in which you believe that free speech should be restricted.

    On your sub-issue, nothing in Bengston’s speech suggests that he believes that there is one correct belief system. In fact, he makes it clear that the thoughts are his, and his alone.

    There is a deep, non-sectarian, educational message in Bengston’s comments.

    “Class of 2011, be content with who you are, find that inner peace that will get you through every difficult time, and have a joyous life…. Live the life you love, and love the life you live and may God bless you.”

    June 8, 2011
  40. Barb Kuhlman said:

    I agree with Phil. I have just listened to the end of the address which Griff posted. This would have been acceptable in a private Christian school, but I agree that at least some of the Bible verses he chose at the end were totally inappropriate. I am not bothered by the references to being created by a “One” over all, as there can be many understandings of what it means to be “created” by a “Higher Power,” and many understandings of “God.” I do think he was out of line to read the scriptures which say that the only way to God is through Jesus. That I do believe is offensive, in a public school address, to the people of other faiths. To those with no religious beliefs, I think it is offensive to suggest that you can’t live a good life without a belief in God. (Disclosure–I consider myself a liberal Lutheran.) I don’t have a problem with him talking about his own faith, what keeps him centered, if indeed it does. I do have a problem with him suggesting in a public school setting that his way is the only way, and I believe that is proselytizing. He could have included some wisdom from great persons of other faiths or cultures, as well as wisdom from Jesus. The example that Phil gave would have been more appropriate. One can express one’s own beliefs without making it seem that theirs is the only way.

    June 8, 2011
  41. john george said:

    David- It is this paragraph that is probably causing the most consternation:

    “Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” In John 14, “Thomas, a disciple, asked, ‘How do we know the way?’ Jesus says, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” And Paul in writing to the Philippians and to us Minnesotans [ph] in Chapter 2, “That at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth. And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”

    The Bible is exclusionary to other religions, just as most other religious writings are exclusionary to other religions, including Christianity. I think Mr Bengstom was pretty brave when he stood up before that class and said, essentially, this is what I believe. It takes courage to stand against the popular flow of thought.

    June 8, 2011
  42. David Ludescher said:


    I don’t subscribe to the theory that the God or the Bible is exclusionary, nor do I believe that Bengston intended to portray God or the Bible as such. I think that he was offering his students an explanation for his inner peace, and standing as a witness that Jesus is a path to that inner peace – if they want it.

    June 8, 2011
  43. Margaret Colangelo said:

    I’m torn.
    I did not attend graduation so I cannot comment on the entire speech, but several points come to my mind.

    1. The kids chose him – that’s clear.
    2. He may not have great public speaking skills. Few people do.
    3. I think it’s fine to mention one’s personal or religious beliefs. Such as “this is what I find comforting in troubled times” or “this is my guiding principle”. Acceptance must hold for all spiritual persuasions, including atheism.
    4. However, it is NOT fine, in a public school setting, to state that one’s personal or religious beliefs are the only good choice, or the only moral choice. Quoting Chapter 2, “That at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth. And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”
    That’s stretching it – and it’s inappropriate.

    June 8, 2011
  44. Griff Wigley said:

    MPR’s Bob Collins has a post on his News Cut blog today: Intelligent design and the graduating class

    What’s commencement season without the obligatory controversy over prayer, or — in the case of Northfield High School — one teacher’s religious theories?

    June 8, 2011
  45. Patrick Enders said:

    I hope somebody had the good sense to walk out on this guy.

    June 8, 2011
  46. Barb Kuhlman said:

    I don’t think anyone here is attacking him; criticism of one’s action is not necessarily an attack.

    June 8, 2011
  47. Raymond Daniels said:

    This is adressed to all the “Christians” here.

    Wow!! I am just amazed at some of the responses here. Think about what you are saying. You are saying that Jesus is inappropriate to be talked about in public. Are you ashamed of Jesus? Are you not acting like Peter when he denied Jesus 3 times? Will Jesus not deny you when your time comes?

    I know I will be roasted for this comment, but I stand on my faith in Jesus.

    June 8, 2011
  48. Patrick Enders said:

    You sound very interested in roasting – you now, and the rest of us later on, if I understand your ‘Jesus will deny us when our time comes’ assertion.

    What’s up with that?

    June 8, 2011
  49. David Ludescher said:


    I am still trying to figure out what was “offensive” about the remarks. Offensive would imply that he is attacking someone else.

    June 8, 2011
  50. kiffi summa said:

    david… certainly as an attorney you know that under our laws today, Free Speech does NOT trump all. Hate speech is not allowed; neither is slander nor libel, and there are many other instances also, mostly in social situations, ie. harassment etc.

    I am all for free speech. I am also all for freedom of religion, or non-religion , as the case may be… but it is the specificity of the Bible quotes with their exclusionary tone, that makes those elements of this speech, offensive in a public school setting.

    I believe that the gentleman has every right to exercise his judgement, in his speech, that he was asked to give.
    But then it is also fair for that public speech to be a subject of intense discussion, especially at a time when more and more religious values enter our political lives.
    Maybe this country will become a majority that favors a theocracy!

    June 8, 2011
  51. kiffi summa said:

    Oops… my june 8th, 3:16 comment should have been here under david’s 21.2

    June 8, 2011
  52. john george said:

    David L- Perhaps I am using the wrong term in “exclusionary”, but when Jesus says “… no one can come to the Father but by Me…”, then that seems to rule out any other way to God, if you will, that man has tried to come up with. This is just my opinion, but so much of the challenges to Christianity I have read and heard in the various media sources I come in contact with are all against the idea that the Bible is the inspired word of God. I most often hear it attributed to just a collection of writings by a bunch of different men. I think Mr. Bengston’s assertion that the Bible can be used as a final authority in the matters of men is the foundation of much of the objections raised here.

    June 8, 2011
  53. norman butler said:

    Educationally speaking, the first minute or so of the clip is rambling nonsense (the latter couple of minutes mostly harmless homespun, though a bit weird in that forum).

    “…Mathematics of ellipses, spheres etc didn’t just happen….earth, planets etc didn’t just happen…new born baby didn’t just happen…brain, body designed by him”. What’s this ‘didn’t just happen’ stuff? And who says it did? This from a teacher of mathematics?!

    I recommend The Theory of Evolution plus a dose of Big Bang (and the subsequent evolution of the Universe including me and thee) both well explained in many accessible books and documentaries (libraries – certainly Carnegie downtown, hopefully NHS and also Netflix). Read them. Watch them. Learn.

    Educate yourself, Doug, and inspire your students to follow in your intellectual footsteps. Anybody can speak from the heart. We expect much more from a trained, experienced, professional educationalists.

    June 8, 2011
  54. David Ludescher said:


    I don’t think you can read too much into what Bengston said. Bengston only suggested that students could find inner peace the same way that he has – through the acceptance of the Biblical principles.

    I think the biggest challenge of Christianity in the coming generations will be the challenge first articulated by William James more than a century ago. The challenge is to make religion have value (i.e. be practical). By that measure, Bengston offered the kids something valuable – himself as an example.

    June 8, 2011
  55. rob hardy said:

    We have to accept that some people—including many good people who serve others in the way that Mr. Bengtson appears to do—are motivated by Christian beliefs and find strength and comfort in the Bible. I personally find John 14:6 problematic, but Mr. Bengtson wasn’t lecturing on theology, he was speaking personally about his own beliefs, and what motivates him to devote his energies to loving others. I think the speech would have made me uncomfortable, but Jesus himself was not too concerned with making his listeners comfortable. In any case, I’m more uncomfortable with “political correctness” if it becomes a knee-jerk reaction that stifles discussion and prevents us from figuring out how actually to live with (and even to love) those who have beliefs different from our own.

    June 8, 2011
  56. Kathie Galotti said:

    Nicely put, Rob.

    June 8, 2011
  57. Barb Kuhlman said:

    Rob, I think Mr. Bengtson deviated from simply expressing what motivated him to devote his energies to serve others when he read scripture which said, in essence, that his way was the only way. He could have said that he found his way through life with the help of his Christian faith and acknowledged that there are other paths.

    June 8, 2011
  58. rob hardy said:

    Barb: That’s what I believe (i.e., that Christianity is one path among many). That is apparently not what Mr. Bengtson believes. The question is: how do we listen to, and engage in civil discourse with, people who have beliefs so different from our own. Do we refuse to hear them? Do we deny the very real force (to them) of their beliefs? Or do we tell them that it’s inappropriate to talk about those beliefs in public?

    I don’t agree with everything Mr. Bengtson said, but I would rather live in a society where he is allowed to be heard, and where I am allowed to disagree, than in a society that practices repressive “political correctness.”

    Christianity is entangled with the history of this nation, so I find talk about “separation of church and state” overly simplistic sometimes. I like the language of the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 (the oldest written constitution in the world, written primarily by John Adams), which says (Article II):

    And no subject shall be hurt, molested, or restrained, in his person, liberty, or estate, for worshipping God in the manner and season most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience, or for his religious profession or sentiments, provided he doth not disturb the public peace or obstruct others in their religious worship.

    The Founders, I think, were concerned with “religious tests” (U.S. Constitution, Article VI, paragraph 3) that might demand, for example, that to be eligible for office a candidate must be a Congregationalist (in New England) or an Anglican (in Virginia). I just wonder whether “political correctness” in religious matters becomes a new version of a religious test.

    June 8, 2011
  59. David Ludescher said:


    Excellent comments.

    I’m not sure one can draw many conclusions about Bengston’s beliefs. We all have our own interpretations of what the Bible passages mean to us which is difficult, if not impossible, to separate from what we think Bengston meant by their reference. Certainly, his comments are much more mild than the Christian minister who has his own secular holy day – Martin Luther King Jr.

    June 8, 2011
  60. Barb Kuhlman said:

    So do you think that an expectation of sensitivity to the diversity of the graduating class and their parents, as well as other community members, is “political correctness?” I think the concern for his lack of sensitivity to diversity is more than “political correctness,” a term often use to trivialize legitimate concerns.

    June 8, 2011
  61. john george said:

    Rob- I agree with your comment here-
    ” …I just wonder whether “political correctness” in religious matters becomes a new version of a religious test.”
    I’m very wary of those who would silence non-Christian as well as Christian voices in this country. We only have as much freedom as we allow others to exercise.

    June 8, 2011
  62. rob hardy said:


    I think we sometimes forget that Christians are also an element in that diverse community. If a Muslim teacher, or a Hindu teacher, had spoken about his or her beliefs, would we have objected, or would we have congratulated ourselves on our tolerance of diversity? I’m not saying that every public forum should be turned into a pulpit, only that we should learn how to live in a world where people can express the religious beliefs by which they live.

    There was, I believe, error in the speech (the implication of intelligent design), and the passage from John has problematic implications, but the speaker was not preaching hate, only asking students to look inside themselves at what gives them a feeling of “inner peace.” He described what gave him that feeling, but he didn’t tell his listeners that they had to seek that feeling of “inner peace” from the same source (i.e., Christianity).

    As I said above, the speech, if I had heard it, would have made me uncomfortable. But I’m wary of confusing “sensitivity to diversity” with avoidance of viewpoints that I find personally problematic.

    Fortunately, Griff has given us an opportunity here to make this a teachable moment.

    June 8, 2011
  63. Jane McWilliams said:

    I agree with you, David (in 21.2.5)

    Mr. Bengston was asked by the students to address their graduating class. He gave them insights into his world view. Based on that view, tried to give them guidance. Not unusual for a graduation speech.

    One might not agree with the biblical sources for his world view. However, can’t we agree that the even if the sources for his world view aren’t meaningful to us, he has a right them and to the expression of his philosophy?

    While I may not be inspired by the same sources that shaped Mr. Bengston’s values,, I do aspire to his challenge that we “Live the life you love and love the life you live.”. What’s wrong with that? Not bad advice for graduating seniors, either.

    June 8, 2011
  64. john george said:

    Rob- Thanks for your post. You express what I call true tolerance of diversity. Equality and sameness are not the same thing.

    June 8, 2011
  65. Bruce Wiskus said:


    This is not an apples to apples comparison it is not even apples to oranges. It is more like an apple to radish comparison.

    I was at the graduation and did not hear one EXTREMIST view point. Some christian view points, yes but extreme view points, not even close.

    Now if your asking if it would be right if a caring, reach out teacher with mainstream Muslim views addressed the kids. If he/she made a few quotes out the Koran I have no issues.

    If I became upset at every comment a teacher made that disagreed with my personal view points I would not get much sleep. Instead of getting all fired about this talk to your kids about your beliefs and the differences from what they heard.

    I find it interesting that people that “preach” for open minded view points can be the most close minded when things are not politically correct.

    June 8, 2011
  66. Griff Wigley said:

    Great discussion, everyone. I appreciate the overall civility and the depth of the debate.

    It seems to me that if students had invited Richard Dawkins to be their commencement speaker, one would expect that he’d try to be inspirational but with his atheistic philosophy underpinning it, as it’s what he’s known for. Many might disagree with his statements but not many would object to him inserting his beliefs into his presentation and proselytizing.

    Likewise, evangelical Christian minister Rick Warren or MN Rep. Keith Ellison, a Muslim.

    But NHS seniors apparently invited Doug Bengston to be their commencement speaker because of their fondness for him as a teacher and as a person, not because of his Christian beliefs.

    A commencement speech is supposed to be inspiring. How is it inspiring to suddenly state one’s belief in intelligent design? It came off as proselytizing.

    His biblical quotes likewise seemed out of the blue. He didn’t explain how those quotes bring him “inner contentment.” He just rattled them off and so it came off as proselytizing.

    And Christian proselytizing, I’m guessing, is not what most students were hoping for when they selected him to be their commencement speaker.

    June 8, 2011
  67. David Ludescher said:


    I think you underestimate 18 year old kids. I’m guessing that they got the person they wanted, and that he didn’t disappoint.

    June 9, 2011
  68. Michelle Hawkins said:

    Bruce – you missed my point entirely. No faith should be espoused at a publicly supported function where attendees have not been informed beforehand that such was taking place. None. Because if it’s okay for one person to do so, then all, even extremists, must also be allowed to do so, without sanction or censure.

    June 9, 2011
  69. rob hardy said:

    Coincidentally, tomorrow is the 48th anniversary of JFK’s commencement address at American University (June 10, 1963), at which he said:

    “When a man’s way[s] please the Lord,” the Scriptures tell us, “He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” And is not peace, in the last analysis, basically a matter of human rights: the right to live out our lives without fear of devastation; the right to breathe air as nature provided it; the right of future generations to a healthy existence?

    The quotation is Proverbs 16:7.

    I think David L. (32.1) may be partially right. My son, who is in precalculus, says Mr. Bengtson wears a “Jesus fish” tie to school every day.

    Last year’s speaker, whom I did hear, gave a rambling and forgettable speech (as most commencement addresses are instantly forgettable), but all the graduates I talked to said, “That was so Dr. Riley!” A disappointing speech that didn’t disappoint those who loved the man and all his quirks.

    June 9, 2011
  70. Michelle Hawkins said:

    So I have a curiosity. Being Christian I find certain faiths to be the “wrong way in”. Being American means I accept that there are thiose who do not follow my path of belief.
    This is not a Theocracy -yet.

    Jehovah Witnesses, of which we have an established congregation here, are not Christian, and their tracts will tell you so. I am curious, were there any JW’s at commencement, how does that community feel about preachin at graduation where their kids also attend?

    I have had the devastating experience of being held captive by a Black Hebrew Israeli (google it, I don’t have time to explain), for four years. This group in New York stands on street corners shout-preaching their belief that whites will serve as slaves to blacks after the second coming of Christ. That they will be allowed to cut white peoples heads off and set them on fire at will before the second coming. They beieve the light skinned people calling themselves Jew are usurpers and the only real jew is black, a king, a priest, and they quote scripture to back it up.
    So if in an improbable vote, out of curiosity or whatever, the high school class wanted Yahweh Ben Yahweh to speak at commencement about how he turned his life around, wouldn’t that be okay? After all he quotes from the bible?

    The freedom of speech, and religion, that we as Christians enjoy, and allowed this teacher to use scripture that states there is only one path to God, also is a right and must be acceptable for the Black Hebrew Israeli on one extreme, and Jehovah Witnesses on what could be considered by some, another.

    It’s not that the teacher is wrong in his faith, I have the same faith, and believe it’s righteous. It’s that if you open that Pandora box of allowing speaking on it in a tax supported forum, the same must be allowed to all in future tax supported forums.

    I seriously doubt that would be so acceptable to the other Christians commenting here.

    June 9, 2011
  71. Griff Wigley said:

    Earlier this week I emailed Supt. Chris Richardson inviting him to comment. Here’s his response:


    As a public school district, we are very aware of our Constitutional responsibility to maintain separation of church and state in all programs and events that we conduct. At graduation, we ensure that all individuals acting in an official capacity as employees of the school district refrain from any prayer or mention of religion in speeches or comments. We make every attempt to provide a ceremony that is open and welcoming to all individuals regardless of their religious beliefs. We also review the speeches being presented by members of the senior class since these individuals are representing the entire student body and as such are expected to be respectful of all students in their class.

    For over two decades, the tradition at Northfield High School is for the student body to select a speaker to deliver the graduation address. Over the years, this individual has been has been a favorite teacher, administrator, parent, or community member. As an individual selected by the student body, the speaker is asked only to deliver an individual message that reflects their thoughts and hopes for the graduating class. Their speeches have not been reviewed or screened in advance.

    We acknowledge, however, the value of having guidelines which identify appropriate limitations and constraints for the graduation speeches made by the student-selected speaker and will develop and provide these guidelines to student-selected speakers for future commencement exercises. We apologize for any concerns that this year’s commencement address may have caused.


    L. Chris Richardson, Ph.D.


    June 9, 2011
  72. David Koenig said:

    Rob, I suppose that I have more of a concern over the tie than the speech. In the classroom, where the teacher has the ability to alter the future prospects of a student, such a symbol could imply to a student that there would be a “cost” to expressing disagreement with the faith of the teacher. When there is a power relationship like this, it seems that is where the line should be drawn.

    In this case he teaches a generally objective subject. But even in math, there are places where a teacher can award partial credit for problems incorrectly solved – if the student followed good process.

    Does agreement with the teacher’s beliefs affect how much partial credit is given? The answer to that question doesn’t really matter — the fact that it could means the student is in a subordinate role and may feel pressured to adopt or echo the beliefs of the person holding power over him/her.

    I believe that your point above is that the students would have been aware of his religiosity when they selected him to speak at commencement. I’m wondering if you see a similar distinction as me between the podium and the classroom?

    June 9, 2011
  73. john george said:

    Kathie G- In your post 15, you asserted that Mr. Bengston’s speech “fell flat.” I was talking to a friend who had a graduating senior and heard his speech. There were other speeches, also, but this parent pointed out that Mr. Bengston’s speech was the only one being talked about. Fell Flat? From this perspective, I hardly think so. Who were the other speakers and what did they say? This was a good quote, “I have learned that people will forget what you said. People will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

    June 9, 2011
  74. rob hardy said:

    The school district should be careful in developing guidelines. Last year, the Montana Supreme Court sided with a high school valedictorian in Butte who was prevented from giving a graduation speech in which she discussed how her faith in Jesus motivated her to succeed in school (news coverage here). In that case, a distinction was made between personal expression (permissible) and school district endorsement of the religious views expressed (not permissible).

    June 9, 2011
  75. rob hardy said:

    David: I once talked to a teacher at one of the Northfield elementary schools about a ring with a Christian symbol that she always wore. She said that she hoped it signaled to her Christian students that it was “safe” to talk to her about their faith if they wanted or needed to. I questioned that at the time. But at the same time, I would applaud a teacher who wore, for example, a tie with a pink triangle as a signal that it was “safe” for gay students to talk to him. Some students may be looking for a teacher whom they know to be sympathetic to their own beliefs or preferences. We can’t assume that teachers who have specific sympathies automatically have corresponding antipathies that lead to discrimination. I think we so have to acknowledge that teachers are complex human beings like the rest of us, with their own belief systems and inner lives. For some students, an insight into those inner lives and belief systems can be a powerful part of an education.

    The teacher I was closest to in high school visited me at college to tell me that she was becoming a nun. I was a kid who grew up Presbyterian, in the process of losing my religion at secular Oberlin. She was becoming a bride of Christ. But I knew we were more alike than different. I knew that she understood me and respected me more than anyone else in my high school.

    Better, I think, to have things in the open, to be able to talk about religion, and to understand what’s inside other people, than to drive those things into the shadows where extremism and other corruptions of faith more easily flourish.

    June 9, 2011
  76. Kathie Galotti said:

    John–There were parts of the speech I really liked–that quote being among them. I also thought his main point–you need deeper internal strength to get through tough times–a cell phone isn’t going to be your salvation–was a good one (if a little hard to uncover). And probably because I am constantly haranging my teen to “stop texting, for the love of God.” I wasn’t as bothered by the cell phone rant he led off with.

    But, I take seriously the fact that the quotes about the only way to God being through Jesus as being over the line. I don’t think it was meant that way, but I can genuinely appreciate how that came off as exclusionary. That’s the part I think fell flat.

    As for student reaction–my son, when I asked, chuckled and said, “That’s Mr. Bengston for you.” Of course, my son really likes Mr. B. too.

    June 9, 2011
  77. Jeff Ondich said:


    I think you over-generalize the “they” in this case. My daughter, a member of the class of 2011, does not recall having been given the opportunity to vote at all, but in any case, a relatively small number of students can nominate and choose the year’s speaker.

    Furthermore, my daughter tells me that she grows tired of people assuming she is a Christian, or even a particular type of Christian, and was quite unhappy to be presented with Mr. Bengston’s witnessing (mild though it was) at her graduation. Fortunately, she is mature enough to just roll with it. Still, it’s probably best not to assume that the students “got the person they wanted” in some sort of monolithic bloc.

    June 9, 2011
  78. Cindy Carey said:

    So, Mr. Bengston wears a Jesus Fish tie! Good for Mr. Bengston!!!! Obviously, he has not hidden his faith from students and they voted for him anyway! This makes me smile.

    I wear a necklace with a cross on it. I have noticed that some teachers wear them also. I’ve noticed a couple teachers wearing bracelets with scripture printed on it. I am a nurse and I don’t think my non-christian patients wonder if they will receive the same care as a Christian patient. However, I have had some ask me about my faith because they have seen the cross. It opens up discussion and opportunity to share with each other. It’s a good thing.

    Doug Bengston, I hope you continue wearing your fish tie!! I thank you for taking the time to talk to the kids. I thank you for caring. I thank you for not hiding your faith and for being bold in sharing it! Mostly, I thank God for people like you in our public school system!
    I was talking to a senior student yesterday and he said “Just think, Mr. Bengston knew some people probably wouldn’t like what he said……….and he said it anyway.”
    I answered, “Yeah, just think about it. What he did is pretty amazing.”

    People can go on and on about whether this whole incident was “right or wrong.” Personally, I get so tired of everything being made so complicated……and I know there are those who will take issue with that. But, life is so fleeting……and these are just moments in the entire scheme of things. Our time here is precious. I like to focus on the things that matter. A large group of kids have a teacher that they wanted to hear from during their graduation ceremony. They like him and have experienced his kindness. They trust him. They wanted to hear what he had to say. And he did just what they asked…… he shared his concerns for them by offering to them, his very personal feelings, his
    deep faith, and his wishes and hopes for their futures. This was between Mr. Bengston and the graduating seniors……..and I’m wondering if that isn’t the most important thing here? This is their relationship………..these students are now entering an adult world and I think they are capable of knowing how they feel about their teachers words to them. It really should just be that simple……..

    In the meantime, I will continue to wear a cross and I hope Mr. Bengston will continue to wear his fish tie! And, I pray that our seniors will go out into their futures with Mr. Bengstons words of encouragement remaining with them!

    My guess is that people will remember this speech for years to come, but that the noise about it will quiet down. People won’t remember the exact words that were said and people may even forget what kind of tie Mr. Bengston wears……..BUT…….Mr. Bengston, people who have been touched by you through your teaching, or perhaps who were touched by your words……..they will NEVER forget how you made them feel.

    June 9, 2011
  79. David Ludescher said:


    Upon what did you ask him to comment? Do you have your specific question(s)?

    June 9, 2011
  80. David Ludescher said:


    “Fortunately she is mature enough to roll with it” sums it up.

    June 9, 2011
  81. David Henson said:

    Kathie, if he believes the only way to God is through Jesus what would you expect him to say? Would you be offended if he said, sexuality is deeply personal and we need to be accepting of behavior outside our traditions? Everyone asked to speak is going to have different ideas and unless they stick only to talking about weather the ideas will not have universal appeal. I think trying to cleanse speakers ideas ahead of time is just as religious (in fact could be far more open to abuse) as picking a well respected person and letting them speak their mind. Perhaps, up front, the setup to the speaker could make known – the school is not endorsing any particular ideas but is not restricting subject matter either.

    June 9, 2011
  82. David Ludescher said:


    Actually, a reading of John 14 that suggests that is exclusionary is probably a misreading of Scripture. If you read Matthew 25 in conjunction with John 14, it makes a lot more sense.

    June 9, 2011
  83. Kathie Galotti said:

    I think trying to cleanse speakers ideas ahead of time is just as religious (in fact could be far more open to abuse) as picking a well respected person and letting them speak their mind. Perhaps, up front, the setup to the speaker could make known – the school is not endorsing any particular ideas but is not restricting subject matter either.

    David H: This makes sense to me as well. I was trying to remember what MY high school commencement speaker talked about, and I have no memory whatsover. This could be because the dinosaurs roaming the adjacent caves were making too much noise, but more likely it was that it was such a vanilla/bland talk it just faded away (come to think of it, I remember nothing of Dr. Richardson’s talk Sunday either–it wasn’t offensive but it wasn’t real memorable either). I **do** remember Nora Ephron’s address at my Wellesley commencement–because it was all about women standing up for themselves and not being “obedient”. The reason I remember it, I think, is that most of the women in the audience loved it and many of the men (well, ok, my brother and father) took umbrage–and a “spirited discussion” ensued.

    So, yeah, utterly non-offensive speeches have their downsides as well.

    June 9, 2011
  84. Kathie Galotti said:

    David L. Clearly, you are much more knowledgeable about scriptures than I!

    June 9, 2011
  85. David Koenig said:

    Rob, I think the key difference is that a student MIGHT feel that the teacher was hostile to other beliefs. It is not fair to put the less powerful into such a situation in the classroom.

    I am in agreement with you about not driving beliefs into the shadows, as I stated early in the discussion. The part of the speech in the original post by Griff would give anyone who disagrees ample opportunity to discuss with their children or others any beliefs they have that are different.

    Maybe the lost partial credit is never known to anyone but the teacher….that’s in the shadows.

    Cindy, from my perspective, the nurse-patient relationship is quite different from the teacher-student relationship. I might take more comfort in your advice to me as a nurse because I know of your faith. I am not forced, though, to see you as a patient.

    I am glad that Mr. Bengston has his faith as well. I am glad that he feels comfortable publicly declaring his faith. I thought his words were very positive and hopeful.

    From a policy standpoint, in the classroom, disparate treatment due to differences in religion, or even the appearance of its possibility, is best prevented.

    June 9, 2011
  86. john george said:

    David L.- I’m not understanding your correlation between Matt. 25 and John 14. I think you have my personal e-mail, so you can answer me there. I don’t think we need to engage in more theological discussions on this thread. Thanks.

    June 9, 2011
  87. Jeff Ondich said:

    David, you’re right. I am fortunate to have children who are both passionate and sensible.

    June 9, 2011
  88. David Ludescher said:

    Jeff – 32.1.3,

    I would add tolerant and understanding. She is a good example for us adults.

    June 10, 2011
  89. norman butler said:

    Why does almost every discussion on Locally Grown, no matter what the topic, deteriorate into as a bible study class?

    June 10, 2011
  90. David Ludescher said:

    Why does every public display of religion turn into a Locally Grown post?

    June 10, 2011
  91. kiffi summa said:

    Because the impact of religious beliefs which are not favorable to those who do not believe in parallel paths are being prevalent in elections, both civic and school boards, as well as business arrangements, and economic climates, the workplace, healthcare , and on and on…

    If a religion believes only its beliefs are correct, it tends to be exclusionary.

    And therefore it is an apt subject for discussion… in Mr. Wigley’s sandbox.

    June 10, 2011
  92. john george said:

    Well, Norman, maybe you still have a thing or two to learn about the Bible. I know I do. The scripture describes God as long suffering, and it is a good thing, too, or He wouldn’t put up with me!

    June 10, 2011
  93. rob hardy said:

    Maybe Griff should consider a spin-off site that provides a forum for theological discussions.

    June 10, 2011
  94. john george said:

    Rob- Maybe he could call it “Locally Groan Religion.”

    June 11, 2011
  95. Phil Poyner said:

    As the website opens it could automatically start up a midi file of “Losing my religion” by REM! ;-P

    June 11, 2011
  96. john george said:

    Or, a Larry Norman song out of the ’70’s titled “Walking Backward Down The Stairs, Trying To Get Higher…”

    June 11, 2011
  97. Kathie Galotti said:

    I would not sign my kids up for this. Well, maybe the 17-year-old–only because he’s so mouthy and enjoys sparring with authorities so much he might be able to outwit them and the attempt would in any case be humorous.

    At the same time, it seems to me like there’s a world of difference between a commencement speech with some possibly over-the-top religious messages and a camp whose deliberate and explicit intention is to indoctrinate kids into a specific political philosophy.

    I don’t see Doug Bengston as in the same camp as the guys described in the article.

    June 15, 2011
  98. Griff Wigley said:

    On Rejoice! Church’s This and That page:

    TRANSFORMATION NORTHFIELD and Community Ministry:

    Our next Transformation Northfield breakfast gathering is Thursday, AUGUST 11th, 6:45 am to 7:55 am at the Archer House Conference Room. Please make plans to come as Doug Bengston, a math teacher at NHS, will be our special testimony guest. Pastor Dan will share a transformation teaching and Pat Shelby worship.

    July 25, 2011
  99. Griff Wigley said:

    With this announcement, Rejoice Church now appears to own Transformation Northfield. Note that the announcement uses the pronoun ‘our:’

    Our next Transformation Northfield breakfast gathering…

    July 25, 2011
  100. David Ludescher said:


    Given that there is no noun “Rejoice!” in the paragraph, I am certain that “our” refers to the noun “Transformation Northfield”.

    July 25, 2011
  101. john george said:

    Griff- David L. is correct. Transformation Northfield is its own entity. It was originally set up as a ministry of City Light Church (actually, back when it was New Covenent) for tax purposes until all the organization could be completed. Rejoice is perhaps the most visible participant, but TN is composed of people from many churches in Northfield and Dundas. It is about as close to a non-/inter-denominational organization as any I have been involved with.

    July 25, 2011
  102. Griff Wigley said:


    While Transformation Northfield (TN) may have been set up to be its own entity and is “composed of people from many churches,” everything about its public persona now communicates that it’s an entity run by Rejoice/Dan Clites.

    * The TN web page on Rejoice’s site says nothing about its origins or gives any indication that its focus/membership is as you say it is, other than a vague “a group of Northfield Christians are coming together…” Rather, it emphasizes Rejoice and Dan Clites:

    Rejoice! sees itself as a city leader in this prayer evangelism movement… Pastor Dan Clites says he is a pulpit minister, but our congregation is the marketplace ministers! Together, we are blurring the lines between the sacred and the secular!

    * The update about Doug Bengston’s upcoming speech didn’t appear on the TN page. It appeared on the Rejoice This and That page. That’s why the use of the word “our” stood out to me. Clites is treating TN as his/Rejoice’s entity.

    * It would be trivial and free to have a simple standalone Transformation Northfield web site. But instead, it’s a page on the Rejoice site and has been for a long time.

    * When is someone besides Dan Clites going to lead TN?

    July 25, 2011
  103. john george said:

    Griff- Evidently you have not read our bulletin. Of course, we do not post it on the internet (we don’t have time or personel to maintain it), but I invite you to come pick one up at our church sometime. Better yet, I will mail you one.

    As far as a web page, someone has to update the page. Some of us consider that there are better things to do, especially when we do not make our living updating web pages.

    As far as Dan Clites leading TN, it is evident that you have not done sufficient research to find out whom is on the board of TN, or whom supports it financially.

    I deduce, from this post, that you seem to have more of a problem with Dan Clites than you do TN. Why is that? Is it just because you disagree with him? You disagree with me, so do you have the same problem with me but have just not expressed it? Or, is it because I have sought you out and been transparent with you? Perhaps you need a mediator, but I think you should do more research.

    July 26, 2011
  104. David Ludescher said:


    Why do (would) you care who leads Transformation Northfield?

    July 26, 2011
  105. Griff Wigley said:

    John, yes, please send me a TN bulletin.

    I did try searching for information about TN as an organization and came up empty. Is it a non-profit? If so, GuideStar had no info. Can you point me to a URL with the info/help me with the search?

    It would seem logical to include something about the organization and its board/financial support, etc on the TN webpage. Rejoice (Dan?) regularly updates several pages on their site every week so it would not seem to too difficult to do likewise for TN.

    I’ve got no problems with you or many other people here with whom I often disagree — like that Ludescher fella. 😉 But maybe it’s time for us to have another cuppa coffee.

    July 27, 2011
  106. Griff Wigley said:

    David, TN has a public agenda so its leadership matters to me.

    July 27, 2011
  107. David Ludescher said:


    Really? You, a self-proclaimed atheist, thinks he should have a say in the leadership of a multi-denominational Christian organization?

    July 27, 2011
  108. john george said:

    David L.- Just because the leadership of TN is important to Griff doesn’t mean he has or wants any say in it. I could list a number of things that are important to me but in which I have no say.

    July 27, 2011
  109. Kathie Galotti said:

    I think as well that Pastor Clites bears watching–what he does within his own church is one thing, but when he starts affecting policies and governmental units, I for one am uneasy….

    July 28, 2011
  110. David Ludescher said:


    I can’t think of a single governmental unit or policy that has been affected by TN. The idea that Clites bears watching is so close to McCarthyism that it makes me uncomfortable.

    July 29, 2011

Leave a Reply