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Waukesha Mayor's Recommended Book Discussion Brings Religious Concerns

Mayor Jeff Scrima fights back against Waukesha Police Chief Russell Jack by questioning voluntary chaplain program.

Clarification: Mayor Jeff Scrima took issue with the first paragraph of this article that states when read with the code the book he asked department heads to read has Christian overtones.

"In no way or nowhere does the book use religious messaging or overtones," Scrima said in a voice message.

A book with Christian overtones when read with a code written in an essay by the same author that Mayor Jeff Scrima asked city department heads to read created a stir among top city leaders, including Police Chief Russell Jack.

City department heads were asked to read the book Sequencing - Deciphering Your Company’s DNA, written by Michael Metzger, and discuss the material in the book.

"If I dare say it without spilling the beans, he is subtly using the full gospel Biblical narrative (creation, fall, redemption, consummation) to provide a framework or interpretive grid to have deeper conversations about what drives (and what could drive) corporate culture," states a book review on Hearts & Minds. "By assessing human nature itself, leaders can push creative innovations that are wise and sustainable (and true to the deepest realities of the real world!)"

Jack questioned the book because of a separate religious code written by the book’s author, Michael Metzger, that is used to interpret the book for Christian reasons.

“I am a devoted WELS Lutheran, but I don't believe it is legally appropriate to bring these ideas into a department director's meeting,” Jack said in an e-mail.

Jack did not bring the issue forward to the media and told Waukesha Patch he went into the mayor's office to discuss his concerns at a department directors meeting before sending the mayor the e-mail.

Scrima responded in an e-mail to the police chief with a question “What should happen when you catch a thief? Is our justice system inappropriate?”

“The intended focus of the book study is to create dialogue and the conditions that engage everyone to achieve organizational goals,” Scrima wrote. “In today’s economically challenged times, we can certainly all agree that achieving the city’s goals is of vital importance.”

In an interview Monday with Waukesha Patch, Scrima did not give a clear answer when asked if the city department heads will be asked to continue the book discussion given the police chief's concerns about the religious element to the book.

“It is one thing if some department directors don’t want to read a book or new ideas,” Scrima said. “It is another thing to pre-judge a book based upon an author's religious background.”

Scrima said the discussion about the religious concerns of the book is taking away from the city’s task of balancing a $1.5 million projected shortfall in next year’s budget.

“It was a recommendation when I presented it to the directors,” Scrima said. “When I presented the book to them a few weeks ago I did request that they read it for the purpose of discussion. However, it was not a requirement.”

However, Jack said in a separate interview he has already read the book and is “fully committed” to helping all city staff members work to solve budget problems.

“I did read the book,” Jack said. “He is trying to say the chief is not willing to read. … Yes, I am willing to read.”

Jack’s issue is the code that was written by the author to interpret the book for the Christian meaning.

“The book intentionally doesn’t use the word Christianity because it would not be allowed in any director’s meeting or governmental meeting,” Jack said.

Meanwhile, Scrima took stabs at the Waukesha Police Department’s chaplain program despite attending church services with the chaplain at Elmbrook Church. Scrima commented in an interview that the chaplain receives a city e-mail account and office space at the police department.

The chaplain, Robin Knoll, operates on a strictly voluntary basis and assists the police department with death notifications and critical incident stress management incident.

“I just find it interesting that our police department has a chaplain,” Scrima said. “… One could certainly ask why aren’t our tax dollars paying for a Muslim chaplain or an atheist chaplain.”

In an interview with Patch, Jack said Knoll is not a religious chaplain, but a counselor in the department. Waukesha Patch began interviews last week for an upcoming feature story about the chaplain program and other police officers previously echoed Jack’s sentiments about the program.

“Robin Knoll was not brought into the Police Department for religious purposes, nor does he practice his religion here at the police department,” Jack said in a prepared statement. “Robin began at the Waukesha Police Department in January 2008, almost two years before I became Chief of Police. I fully support the use of his services at the Waukesha Police Department.

“Robin’s position is unpaid and the desk space he sparingly uses was already available, so no tax dollars were spent specifically for his office cubicle.

“The Waukesha Police Department has had someone in Robin’s position since the 1990s.”

tootsieraul April 26, 2011 at 12:04 AM
WELS Lutherans teach the 5th commandment as "obey those in authority". Chief Jack should apologize to the mayor and ask his forgiveness. This was not about a book. If it was, would the Police Chief have cc'ed others, including Dan Duchniack?
Jerry Bean April 26, 2011 at 01:54 AM
Dear Mayor, What's an atheist chaplain? That comment makes no sense.
facts are stubborn things April 26, 2011 at 02:43 AM
Still no evidence from the book itself of religion. Definition of “chaplain” 1. a member of the clergy or other person in religious orders. 2. a person who says the prayer for an organization. City of Waukesha Police Chaplain Robin Knoll is the President of “Inspiration Ministries” with a distinctly “Christian” Statement of Faith. See the following: http://www.ecfa.org/MemberProfile.aspx?ID=4042 http://www.inspirationministries.org/WhoWeAre/StatementofFaith.aspx
Sonia April 26, 2011 at 11:45 AM
I am Jewish. I do not mind if a volunteer chaplain has office space at the police department and helps with death notifications and officer counseling. I would assume that if a rabbi offered the same services, the Waukesha Police Department would make space for that rabbi. No one is "requiring" crime victims and officers to have meetings with the chaplain. I DO mind if a person in authority "requires" people to read and discuss a book with Christian overtones. The difference is in the "requirement".
facts are stubborn things April 26, 2011 at 01:50 PM
Still no evidence from the book itself of religious overtones.

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