Misunderstanding Over THA Religious Policy

Wednesday, June 10th 2009, 11:05 pm
By: News On 6

By Jennifer Loren, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- A Tulsa business has been flooded with hateful e-mails and phone calls after a misleading story aired on a cable news network.  The story outraged viewers across the country, claiming religious activities had been banned from Tulsa's government housing complexes.  The company being blamed for a ban on the words God or Christ says it's not true.

"It was just a big misunderstanding," said Youth At Heart Director Jocelyn McCarver.

Employees at Tulsa's "Youth at Heart" say misunderstanding or not, they're now dealing with hateful e-mails and phone calls.  A story that aired on Fox News Channel said Youth at Heart, who provides recreational activities for Tulsa Housing Authority properties, wouldn't allow religious activities there.  That got lots of folks riled up.

"Well, most of the emails have been from people out of state. So, I guess they're looking at Fox News. So, they're not supporting us anyways," said Youth At Heart Director Jocelyn McCarver.

But, religious activities are allowed on the properties.  They just have to be scheduled through the residents themselves, not through the housing authority or its subcontractors.

A statement from the Tulsa Housing Authority shows it's a federally funded agency and therefore does not directly sponsor religious activities on its sites. They refer religious organizations to schedule those with resident associations.

"We're not banning Child Evangelism. We're not banning the use of the name of Jesus or God," said Youth At Heart Director Jocelyn McCarver.

Fox News Channel picked the story up after a religious group, Child Evangelism Fellowship, talked to the Tulsa Beacon newspaper.

"First of all we were quite shocked because we've been going to these housing complexes with this group for 20 plus years," said Larry Koehn with Child Evangelism Fellowship.

It wasn't until after the story hit the national airwaves and after millions of Americans were outraged they discovered they were wrong and that the whole issue was a simple misunderstanding.

"I need to be sure I know all my facts before I start talking to the news media and that I keep control of the situation for the sake of our ministry and for everyone involved," said Larry Koehn with Child Evangelism Fellowship.

Child Evangelism Fellowship will continue to provide its religious activities at Tulsa Housing Authority properties.