Christian Freedom International Condemns Persecution of Michigan Wrestling Coach
June 4, 2008
SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich., June 4 /Christian Newswire/ — Christian Freedom International, a Michigan-based organization that assists persecuted Christians around the world, is expressing outrage over a disturbing incident of persecution that has taken place right in its own backyard.
Jerry Marszalek, a longtime wrestling coach at Fordson High School in Dearborn, Michigan, was recently released from his job amid complaints that Trey Hancock, his former coaching assistant and an evangelical Christian pastor, was using his position on the wrestling team to convert Muslim students into Christians. Imad Fadlallah, the first Muslim principal at Fordson-a high school where over 80% of its students are of Arab descent-made the decision not to renew Marszalek’s contract, claiming that he had the right to terminate his service because Marszalek was an “at-will” employee. The announcement was praised by hundreds of Muslim parents, students and religious leaders, who attended a school board meeting in unanimous support of the decision.
Hancock denies the allegations, insisting that he never witnessed or preached while coaching at Fordson. Although Hancock was known to have baptized a Muslim student from Dearborn in 2005, it was an activity that was not performed during school hours. After the 2005 baptism, Marszalek was warned by Fadlallah to keep Hancock away from all wrestling practices and events, despite the fact that Hancock’s son, Paul, was a member of the team.
According to a report by the American Psychiatric Association, Michigan is home to the second largest Muslim community outside of the Middle East; according to the same report, Islam is currently the fastest-growing religion in the United States. In 2005, the Islamic Center of America constructed a $14 million, gold-domed mosque in Dearborn, making the 70,000 square-foot facility the spiritual home for thousands of Detroit’s Muslim residents and the largest mosque in the United States.
The controversial incident at Fordson reflects a growing hostility towards Christianity throughout the country, and not just among members of the growing Muslim population. In recent years, Christian persecution has taken on a variety of forms in the United States-from a rising intolerance for proselytizing to the eradication of nearly all historical Christian references in public school textbooks. Although the magnitude of persecution in the U.S. is hardly comparable with that typically experienced in countries such as China, Burma, and Sudan-where persecution is so severe that thousands of believers are often martyred for their faith-the anti-Christian perception in American schools, media, and mainstream society is proving to be a cause for concern for Christians in the United States.