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Play Scrutinized After Use Of Syringe, Knife, Ketchup-Colored Cotton

October 9, 1985

EL PASO, Texas (AP) _ A play in which elementary students at a religious school used a syringe, knife and ketchup-covered cotton to dramatize excision of sin was done in an ″upbeat, happy style,″ said the school’s director.

The Texas Department of Human Services is investigating whether the play involved ″questionable content″ for children, Pat Ayala, public information officer for the department’s El Paso office, said Monday.

The drama, performed Sept. 20 at the Community of Faith Christian School, depicted surgery to remove ″sin″ from a person who ″would not praise the Lord,″ Ms. Ayala said.

Children from 21/2 years old to third-graders attended, she said.

″There were people dressed as doctors and a person lying down,″ she said. ″The doctors pretended to inject him with a syringe, minus the needle, and they rubbed a knife on the table, symbolizing cutting his neck.″

She said cotton balls covered with ketchup were held up, labeled with reasons the person ″would not praise the Lord. Then the person got up and said he could now praise the Lord.″

The drama was put on by members of the Jesus Chapel West, a non- denominationa l church attended by some families with children at the school.

Anthony Mixer, director of the 133-pupil school, said the drama was performed in ″an upbeat, happy style.″

″The program was one of instruction,″ he said, and the children were shown the play’s props before the performance and knew it was ″pretend.″

During the drama, children were laughing, singing and clapping, Mixer said. ″I don’t perceive any negative effects on the children, though some may not have known what was going on.″

Ms. Ayala said the department, which investigates alleged child abuse and licensing violations at child-care institutions, began looking into the drama after receiving a complaint from a parent who said the play upset his child. She would not release the name of the parent.

One parent who sided with Mixer, Amy Reynolds, said, ″The incident has been misrepresented.″

Mrs. Reynolds said her 4-year-old son, Kirk, who has attended the school for a year, ″said he knew it was just pretend.″

Mrs. Reynolds also defended the school, praising its ″strong discipline and good academics.″

She said the school includes ″prayer, praise and Bible study″ in its curriculum.

Ms. Ayala said the department had sent letters to parents of the children who saw the play, describing the complaint and asking permission to interview their children.

She said the investigation probably would be completed by the end of the week.

If found guilty of improper conduct, the school probably would be given a citation and asked to comply with standards, Ms. Ayala said.

″We believe ... there’s a fine line between church and state,″ she said.

Mixer said that regardless of the investigation’s outcome, the play was ″a one-time thing - we’ve never done it before and we’re not going to do it again.″

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