Council making divorce official

Benton Courier, Arkansas/May 18, 2009

Five Benton aldermen have called a special City Council meeting on Wednesday to consider a resolution disassociating the city from a program that has raised eyebrows.

The meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at Benton Municipal Complex. Aldermen who have called the meeting are Steve Lee, Brad Moore, Doug Stracener, Greg White and Larry Wolf.

The resolution would officially sever the city’s ties to The Character Connection; Yisrayl Hawkins, founder and leader of the Texas-based House of Yahweh; and William Crouse, national founder of The Character Connection.

A man who identified himself as William Crouse spoke at an August council meeting and stated that a nuclear holocaust would occur in the following month. Hawkins has been convicted of bigamy and sexual assault, according to the Abilene Reporter and various Web sites detailing information about Hawkins.

Hawkins wrote "Peaceful Solutions," the curriculum used by The Character Connection, said David Knighten, the regional director for Character Connection.

Moore said the resolution is necessary "to officially, emphatically and publicly iterate the city of Benton has no affiliation with and does not endorse the Character Connection program, its author Yisrayl Hawkins and its national director William Crouse; and to iterate the fact that city property, logo and equipment, which are owned by the citizens of Benton, is not available to produce an endorsement of or an affiliation with private groups or programs (for profit and non-profit)."

Classes on anger management an and self-control set to begin June 6 at Benton Municipal Complex were canceled last week. The classes were to be taught by Knighten, who also is a volunteer for Benton Community Access Association.

Broadcasts of Hawkins’ presentations have been aired by BCA on Channel 12. The DVDs were supplied by Knighten.

A portion of the video shows Mayor Rick Holland endorsing the program, but now that more has come out regarding the program and its national ties, Holland asked Knighten to remove it.

The mayor asked City Attorney Brent Houston to write Knighten a letter telling him that the city is not endorsing Knighten’s program.

Houston’s letter states any further use of the video of Holland, use of the city logo any other form of endorsement by the city of Benton is unauthorized.

"The city cannot endorse any business or other type of program, regardless of the nature of the program, whether it is religious, anti-religious, charitable or for profit. Further, use of the city logo, which is property of the city of Benton, is limited by ordinance to activities of the city and cannot be used outside of that context. Your use of the city logo violates the city’s property interests."

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