Do public schools allow that? Parents pressing for answers after pastor shares church’s financial plans

Can you do that in a public school? That's the question parents want an answer to after a pastor made claims online that he wants a local elementary school to become financially dependent on his church. KSAT's Alicia Barrera has the story.

SAN ANTONIO – Can you do that in a public school? Is it a violation of church and state? Parents and community members in the Mahncke Park neighborhood are questioning a local pastor’s motive after a video of remarks circulated online.

In a more than hour-long podcast uploaded to YouTube six months ago, the guest, Pastor Carl Young, talked about planting a church in the backyard of the Mahncke Park neighborhood. He said he plans to rent space at Lamar Elementary to hold weekly services for Garden City Church.

“We’re hoping to launch a Sunday gathering officially in January of 2023 there in Lamar Elementary School,” Young said.

According to Young, SAISD agreed to rent space for the church gatherings.

“The school district itself is open (to it),” Young said. “So, we’ve toured the schools, and they’re like, ‘Yeah, you guys can use classrooms, gyms, all these things.’ And it’s a public school, but they’re also hurting financially.”

While some parents and neighbors do not oppose the rental agreement, others are concerned about the church’s financial plans for the school.

“Let us pay a teacher salary with what we’re giving to you guys,” Young said about donating to Lamar Elementary. “They turn that down, it’s like, ‘Okay, we want to bless you guys, but we can’t, you know?’”

In the video, Young also said, “We want to be able to share the gospel with all of them, but we want them to think, ‘If they leave, this is going to go downhill really quickly.”

Young went on to say, “We’re going to trust the Lord, and the Lord owns the school. He wants us to meet there. He’s going to let us meet there.”

Dr. Ronni Gura Sadovsky is a parent of a Lamar Elementary student and is worried.

“I don’t want anybody to be able to give me a gift and say it’s an offer I can’t refuse,” Gura Sadovsky said. “As a community, we have an obligation to provide our kids with a high-quality public education. We need to support public funding from appropriate public sources so that we aren’t financially dependent on any religious organization.”

Gura Sadovsky said Young has gone too far.

“When he says the ‘Lord owns the school,’ what that tells me is his boundary is whatever he feels he can get away with, and he feels like he’s entitled to use the school for whatever he believes the Lord wants him to,” she said. “And that’s not a very reassuring answer for me.”

KSAT requested an interview with SAISD about the school’s relationship with the church.

A district spokesperson replied with a one-line statement, saying, “We are investigating this matter to determine our next steps.”

“My hope is that we can continue to work on helping Lamar be funded by the community and, you know, appropriately by taxation as a school ought to be,” Gura Sadovsky said.

KSAT also requested an interview with Young about the remarks in the video. However, he, too, replied with a statement. His full statement can be read at the bottom of this story or by clicking here.

Parents and community members are set to meet with school leaders Thursday after school to discuss the rental of the school. On Saturday evening, Young will host an event to meet more community members.

About the Authors:

Alicia Barrera is a KSAT 12 News reporter and anchor. She is also a co-host of the streaming show KSAT News Now. Alicia is a first-generation Mexican-American, fluent in both Spanish and English with a bachelor's degree from Our Lady of the Lake University. She enjoys reading books, traveling solo across Mexico and spending time with family.