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Intelligencer Journal/New Era (Lancaster, Pennsylvania)
Lancaster Catholic High School is requiring its coaches to adhere to a rule that requires them to have a letter of recommendation from their priest, pastor or church leader to continue in their positions.
The requirement is occurring because the Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg is now carrying out an almost 20-year-old rule that has not been enforced in recent years, the school's athletic director, Richard Hinnenkamp, told coaches in a recent email.
Recommendation letters are due by July 1. It was not clear if any coaches' or assistant coaches' jobs would be in jeopardy because of the requirement.
Hinnenkamp could not be reached for comment on the policy enforcement. Several coaches declined to comment.
One, boys' basketball coach Joe Klazas, who did react said he has no problem with the policy and did not think it would be an issue for his staff either.
"It's always family, religion, your school work and the sport you're playing - that's the values we always preach," Klazas said. "The school is just doing what they feel is best for student athletes."
The policy is similar to those at other church or Christian schools in the county.
Lancaster Mennonite requires a reference from a pastor or church leader for its coaches, athletic director Mike Yoder said.
"We don't require them to be members of a Mennonite church, but we do want people we would consider to be active Christians who are good role models," he said.
The application for a coaching position at Lancaster County Christian School requires applicants to sign a "statement of faith," which quotes beliefs and Bible scriptures and indicates that the applicant's lifestyle is in compliance with them.
Applicants also have to write brief statements outlining "their personal relationship to Christ" among other topics.
Lancaster County Christian athletic coordinator Steve Rohrbaugh said those requirements make sense at a Christian school.
"Coaches become role models," he said. "They influence young people, and when you are part of a Christian school and Christian ministry, one of your purposes is to influence people for Christ."
The Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg's coaching requirement actually dates back to 1996, according to Joe Diocese spokesman Aponick.
It was revived during meetings held in recent years between coaches in the diocese and the late Bishop Joseph McFadden, who had a lifelong love of basketball and was a former coach.
Out of those meetings was developed a checklist of things coaches needed to have, including the proper background checks, concussion training, necessary tax forms and a tuberculosis test, among other requirements.
"When they were looking at it, they said, 'We never put on the list the pastor's letter,'" Aponick said.
"Only those individuals rooted in faith, willing to support Gospel values and Catholic teaching, and willing to inspire students through their word and example to accept and live these values and teaching may be selected or retained as moderators/coaches," the coaching requirement states, noting that the pastor's letter must accompany the coach's application.
The Diocese added the requirement to their coaches' checklist, which was sent out to the seven high schools in the Diocese early this month, he said.
In his email, Hinnenkamp told coaches that if they don't attend church or meet the requirement, to see him so that he could try to help.