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Being In The Right Place, To Ask The Right Question
by Heather Cordasco

Heather Cordasco first heard of Alliance Defending Freedom in January 1994, when Focus on the Family introduced the new organization on its national radio program. Listeners were urged to donate to the fledgling ministry, and despite a tight budget and the expenses of two young children, Heather and her husband, Carlo, decided to give a gift.

Today, the Cordascos are longtime Ambassadors for Alliance Defending Freedom and new members of the Ambassadors’ Advisory Council. They live in Williamsburg, Virginia, where Heather works as a wellness coordinator and manages a group fitness program. And for all that – plus involvement in her local church – she felt a conviction, not long ago, that there might still be one more thing she could do to make an impact for religious freedom in her community.

If you had suggested, even a short time ago, that I consider running for public office, I’d have told you, flat out, “no.” After 20 years of concentrating all my efforts on our family, just the thought of all the time and effort involved in running for office seemed overwhelming to me.

"No one on the school board at the time was representing the voice of faith, or even the voice of just down-to-earth, common sense."

But one day there came an opening, and I was approached about filling it. The first time they asked, I did say “no.” The second time, my husband said “no.” The third time, we finally agreed.

It wasn’t exactly a sure thing. My opponent was a well-known local businessman with a lot more money to invest in the race than I had. But somehow, all the volunteering I’d done along the way in our church, our community, and with various local groups and committees seemed to connect in the minds of the voters. That verse in Galatians 6:7 – “Whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” – really came to life for me during the election.

Winning this seat was important to me, because I knew that no one on the school board at the time was representing the voice of faith … or even the voice of just down-to-earth, common sense. “Maybe that’s what I can contribute,” I thought.

When I was running for my seat, people often said to me, “You aren’t going to change anything – you’re just one vote.” “That’s true,” I told them,  “but maybe I can ask that one question that’s never been asked before, or start that one conversation that no one’s ever had.” In fact, that’s exactly how it’s worked out. Just by coming at some issues from a slightly different angle, I’ve been able to peel one or two or three other representatives over to my side on some key votes.

Sometimes, there’s not a lot of genuineness in politics. So it’s important to me that the people I serve know they can reach out to me. During one of our meetings, another board member said, right in front of everyone, “You’re all about personal responsibility, aren’t you?” “Yes, I am,” I said.  She seemed to be in shock.

I had barely been elected when I first heard the story of what happened with Landon.

img-Student-HandbookLandon is my pastor’s son, and leader of One Desire, a Christian club at one of our local high schools. The club wanted to put up flyers last December inviting any and all to a Christmas party the club was sponsoring. Not a winter festival, but a Christmas party – with carols and the Bible story. Of course, all flyers had to be approved by the principal. 

Like many people in our local school system, this particular principal (an interim) was completely uninformed about the rights and civil liberties of Christian students, and very worried about putting the school in a position to be sued. Even though the flyer had already been approved by the vice principal and posted on the bulletin board, he made them take it down.

My term started one month later – too late to do anything about the Christmas party. But I had an idea. Alliance Defending Freedom distributes a booklet called Student Rights Handbook that clearly spells out what teachers, coaches, parents, and students can and can’t do with regard to expressing their faith in the public school setting. This, I realized, was a wonderful opportunity to put that booklet in the hands of the people who most needed to read it.

I enlisted Landon and a fellow ministry Ambassador, Tom Morr, telling them I’d order the booklets if they would come to the next meeting of the school board to hand them out. They did just that, with Landon explaining what had happened with the flyers, and Tom pointing out some of the legal implications of the principal’s decision, for both the school and the district.

Afterward, in a special  session, I was able to ask some questions: “How did this happen? What exactly is our policy?” The superintendent quickly explained that the flyer should have been permitted – that the district’s policy didn’t allow that kind of discrimination against one group while supporting the activities of others. The principal, he said, had made a mistake.

As it happened, our superintendent had scheduled a meeting the next day with every middle and high school principal in the district. He reiterated in detail the district’s policy on religious expression. Just like that, Christian students in each of our schools had their rights affirmed.

My first year on the school board has taught me three things: 

1. Local politics is as critical as national politics. School board members and supervisors affect our everyday lives much more directly than state and national officials do.

2. If you’re not keeping officials accountable, don’t assume any of them are voting your position on the issues. Christians lose a lot of legal ground just by not showing up.

3. Christians should run for office. We need people who grasp the issues – even more, we need people with dependable character and a rock-solid Christian worldview.  

My work with Alliance Defending Freedom has done so much to prepare me for this role – teaching me to be strategic, to not care who gets credit, to regard those against us as opponents – not enemies. And to realize that success often comes from quiet, steady progress … and someone willing to stand for the truth. 

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