Visit the Power Team Web site, and its mission statement will tell you they aim "To reach people with the gospel of Jesus Christ, which an ordinary church meeting or event cannot. Drawing people through the use of performing visually explosive and spectacular feats of strength by incredible athletes who share with them the life-changing message of the cross."
The team's expressed beliefs likewise are fully developed, strongly conservative and wholly evangelical.
So what are they doing in a public school?
Superintendent of Schools Linda Beyea said earlier this week that she was not aware, at least at first, that the Power Team was a religious organization. She did receive some literature from the group touting its program. It comes highly recommended. Middle School Principal Jeff Anderson told her as many as eight other schools in the area have hosted the Power Team. And its literature says it has been one of the top-rated school assemblies for 25 years.
The literature comes complete with recommendations from everyone from former Governor of Alaska Walter J. Hickel to the Denver Broncos to Chuck Norris.
"With all good things," Beyea said, "we check with people." The group seemed to be on the up and up, and its message fit. In middle school, "making good choices is one you are always working hard at," she said.
But Ames parent and state Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, who has a daughter in the middle school, was less enthused.
Although the assembly was technically secular, the Power Team does use phrases common in conservative Christian vernacular, such as "true love waits." The men told girls not to "dress like objects," but said nothing to the boys about not treating girls like objects, regardless of what they were wearing. And at the end of the assembly, the Power Team invited everyone to another show at Cornerstone Church on Friday.
"We are raising our children as Christians," Wessel-Kroeschell said in a message to the school district, "but we would not endorse this interpretation of Christianity."
Further, "not every family attending the Ames Middle School is a Christian. This assembly definitely verges on a civil rights violation."
Beyea told The Tribune, "We are very much into separation of church and state.
"We're not here to support or defend or deny ... anyone. Our core mission here is our education for our kids. We've got more than enough to do."
Wessel-Kroeschell also talked with Beyea this week. When asked if she was satisfied, she said "I think we're on the same page; I'm not sure."
Given the Power Team's strong evangelical message, apparent on its Web site, and the fact that it invited students to what it calls a "crusade" at a church, it's hard to see this assembly anything other than overt religious recruitment.
Even the cleaned-up secular message of drug resistance and abstinence has problems. The Power Team offers no research into the causes of teen behavior or the effectiveness of its approach. All that testosterone may actually weaken the message. Kids don't really want to hear these guys talk about not having sex. They want to see them break things.
If addressing drugs or alcohol was really the goal of the school district, Mid-Iowa has great, proven treatment programs such as those offered by Youth and Shelter Services, programs that work one-on-one solving real problems.
Beyea is right in that the schools do have enough on their hands just fulfilling their own mission. They should not get messed up in religious recruitment. The next time the Power Team comes knocking, the school district ought to take a cue from another over-hyped prevention program and just say no.