- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 6, 2002

A public school employees union in Washington state has ordered a part-time school bus driver to send his annual dues to the American Civil Liberties Union, despite the driver's religious objections to the national organization and its stances on social issues.
The Rev. Ivan Poisel, bus driver in Sunnyside, Wash., and pastor of the Church of God Pentecostal congregation, has religious objections to the charities and activities the Public School Employees (PSE) union supports, and has asked the union to donate his $15 in dues to a local food bank called Second Harvest.
But the union has declined his request, saying it recognizes only the ACLU, the country's largest public-interest firm, and will send his dues there. 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.
"I feel like this is religious persecution because I've taken a stand," Mr. Poisel said in an interview yesterday. "The union's demands are ridiculous."
Union officials defended their decision. "This is not an adversarial situation in the least," said Rick Chisa, PSE's communications director. "Mr. Poisel is voicing his preference, and we're voicing our preference to what charity his dues should be sent. We're at a point right now where we just disagree with his preference."
Mr. Poisel said he doesn't want his dues going to the ACLU because he says the organization is "pro-abortion and was instrumental in getting prayer out of schools." "It's an anti-Christian organization," Mr. Poisel said. "They're against everything I stand for."
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.
"It's not like we're refusing his request," Mr. Chisa said. "We're going by what the law tells us to do. PSE doesn't want to be in the business of identifying which organizations or charities are legitimate. We use selected charities that don't pose any question that it's an accountable organization."
Mr. Poisel's case comes three weeks after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ordered the National Education Association and its state affiliates to stop forcing teachers who categorize themselves as religious objectors to undergo annual written procedures so their dues will not fund the union's political agenda.
The ruling stemmed from a case in Ohio, where a high school teacher filed a complaint with the EEOC against the Ohio Education Association in 2000, after union officials there rebuffed the teacher's long-standing objection over his dues during the 1999-2000 school year. In that case, the teacher, also a member of the Church of God, wanted his dues to go to Habitat for Humanity.
"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."
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.
Mr. Poisel said he intends to see his battle through to the end. "I will not allow the union to intimidate and discriminate against people because of their religion," he said.


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