Parks Chief Apologizes, Backs Separation of Church and State

From a Times Staff Writer

Saying he hopes that “there will be no further misunderstanding,” state Parks and Recreation Director Henry R. Agonia on Friday apologized for his suggestion that the line separating church and state should never have been drawn.

Agonia’s apology came one day after Assemblyman Tom Bane (D-Tarzana) called on Gov. George Deukmejian to fire Agonia for the remarks made in an article he wrote titled, “Religion & Recreation: Erasing the Barrier.” The statements also prompted complaints from several Jewish organizations.

Among other things, Bane was concerned about Agonia’s statement in the article “that it is time to erase the line that separates church and state.” Agonia also said that “the spirit of the nation is Christian” and that Christian-oriented recreation programs can help meet today’s recreation needs.

In a prepared statement issued Friday, Agonia said:

“It is unfortunate that my comments were somehow construed to advocate the ending of the separation between church and state or favoring one denomination over another. That was not my intent, and I am hopeful that there will be no further misunderstanding.

“If anyone was offended by my remarks in the article, they have my most sincere apology,” Agonia said.


Bane, who met with Agonia on Friday, said the park director had come close to violating the constitutional separation between church and state. As a result, Bane said he plans to monitor Agonia’s activities.