Table of Contents:
“In God We Teach” is the story of Matthew LaClair, a student at
Kearny (NJ) public high school who secretly recorded his history
teacher, David Paszkiewicz in class, and accused him of
proselytizing for Jesus.
While most Americans claim to understand the concept of
“separation of church and state,” few are sure of what is actually
legal, and what is not when it comes to the public school classroom. And the misunderstandings continue… Isn’t America a Christian state founded on Judeo-Christian values, a single nation indivisible under God and whose currency stipulates that in God we trust? “In God We Teach” explores the blurred lines between personal belief, religious dogma and civil law through the eyes of an average, bluecollar American town within sight of downtown New York.
About the Film:
“He (Jesus) did everything in his power to make sure that you could go to heaven, so much so that he took your sins on his own body, suffered your pains for you, and he’s saying, ‘Please, accept me, believe.’ If you reject that, you belong in hell.”
After approaching the local school board for redress and receiving none LaClair took his secret recordings to the media. When the recordings were made public, the story exploded, and engulfing not just Kearny, but citizens across America.
Paszkiewicz, defending himself in a letter to the local newspaper
claimed that he was just exercising academic freedom, and
expressing his opinions in response to students’ questions (questions he claimed that were asked primarily by LaClair.) In addition, he cited several Founding Fathers’ quotations as justification for his own statements. Otherwise he remained silent…that is, until his appearance here, in this feature-length documentary, “In God We Teach.”
LaClair, on the other hand, became a media and First Amendment darling; giving many interviews and receiving multiple awards, while receiving a less-than-enthusiastic reception from his fellow students and citizens, including a death threat. It was clear that the residents of Kearny seemed to support Paszkiewicz regardless of whether he “crossed the line” or not.
When I first visited with the LaClair family and listened to Matthew’s secretly made recordings I thought that his history teacher, David Pazkiewicz had indeed “crossed the line,” and therefore I was not interested in pursuing the story. I was then shown Pazkiewicz’ recently-published letter in the local Kearny newspaper. In it Pazkiewicz stood his ground and felt that he had not “crossed any line.” Now this defense I thought had the makings for an engaging documentary.
As the viewer soon discovers I am not a lawyer, theologian,
historian, or philosopher, but that I am simply a documentary
filmmaker; so my approach to this material is solely from the
perspective of a layman. And as the product of the New Jersey
public school system myself (K through Rutgers) the Kearny HS
story has a special resonance.
While Matthew & his family soon agreed to participate in my new
endeavor, David was extremely reluctant. Over the next several
months David & I had many conversations in which I made my case promising an even-handed exploration of these “church & state” issues. I stressed that I would go right down the middle and attempt to present all of David’s major arguments as well as Matthew’s. David took a leap of faith and trusted me, and I have carried the responsibility of those pledges at every step of this production. I believe I have lived up to them.
The dispute between Matthew LaClair & David Paszkiewicz also
incorporated the town of Kearny itself, which in a way, became the third “character” in the film. As with most other small American
towns Kearny felt uncomfortable with all the press attention, and its residents were reluctant to even speak with “outsiders.”
By focusing closely on specific events in Kearny, the larger, national implications for America are better illuminated. I soon realized that sometimes the big story can best be understood when it has a human face and a local setting.
Vic Losick’s Bio:
My formative years were spent in New Jersey, and I'm a product of New Jersey public schools (K-Rutgers). With several of my high school classmates I made my first two films; "The Tower of Dracula" and "Al Capone." After graduating from college I took a job as a tour manager taking American tourists around Western Europe for Globus Tours of Lugano, Switzerland. In between tourist seasons I lived in Rome.
It was a fortuitous time to be there; Italian cinema was at the height of its popularity and I managed to see many films, refining my language skills and falling in love with cinema. Returning to the States after 2 years abroad I turned my growing interest in film from an avocation into a career. In the late 1960's cinema verite documentaries were flourishing in New York. After driving a taxi for a brief stint I was able to land work with Bill Jersey, and then the Maysles, and later with Robert Drew, among others.
It was all 16mm color reversal film at the time and I learned “on-the-job:” assistant cameraman, soundman, assistant editor, editor, and cameraman. Along the way I was making small films,
producing, directing, shooting & editing by myself. Like many of my contemporaries, my social and political perspectives were deeply affected by the times, and my films have strived to adhere to a philosophy of social responsibility. In fact, my very first production was a 30-second PSA titled "A Tree" for Friends of Central Park.
I then started shooting many segments for "60 Minutes." I also
produced a piece on bank robberies featuring Willie Sutton, with
Mike Wallace as the correspondent. I continued shooting, editing
and producing for a variety of networks & corporations traveling
across the United States as well as shooting many films abroad.
In the last few years I have shot several long-form documentaries, 2 American Masters for PBS; "Ella Fitzgerald, Something to Live For" and "Clint Eastwood, Out of the Shadows," an independent feature documentary "Pie in the Sky", and a one-hour show for Scorsese's Blues series, "Piano Blues," directed by Clint Eastwood.
What has probably been my most rewarding work experience has been shooting (and producing with director Mirra Bank) another independent feature documentary, "Last Dance." The film which features Maurice Sendak & The Pilobolus Dance Theater combines cinema-verite with performance shooting. "Last Dance" received rave reviews across the country, including the New York Times; it was short-listed for an Oscar; and it was named by the Academy of Arts and Sciences as one of the Best Documentaries of 2002-03.
Produced, Directed & Written by
Director of Photography
Location Sound Recordists
Larry Loewinger, Soho Audio
Graphic & Visual Design
Paul Colin, Cezanne Studios
Alyssa Lopez Clements
Additional Audio Services
The LaClair Family
The Paszkiewicz Family
Patricia Dima, Dima & Company, P.C.
Robert Davidson, Sight & Sound Insurance, Inc.
Transcription Services (Not In Film Credits)
Linda DiCamillo, Just Your Type Service
Emmeline De Sousa
Ricardo La Motta
Neil deGrasse Tyson
Advocates for Faith & Freedom
Alpha & Omega Christian Club
G & T Subs
Center for Inquiry
Ethical Culture Society of
Essex County, NJ
Kearny Baptist Church
Kearny Irish-American Club
Kearny Portuguese Cultural Association
The Long Island Ethical
Montclair Studio Players
Thomas Jefferson Foundation
New Jersey Civil Liberties Union
New York Society
for Ethical Culture
New York University
OnLocation Tours, Inc.
Trinity Episcopal Church
Americans United for Separation of Church & State
Fox News Channel
News 12 New Jersey
“Yankee Doodle Dandy”
Performed by New Jersey Symphony Orchestra
“Battle Hymn of the Republic”
Written by Julia Ward Howe
Performed by New Jersey Symphony Orchestra
Written by Rob Spragg
Performed by Alabama 3
Hal Leonard Corporation Publishing
Written by: Alan Evans
Performed by Soulive
“Pomp & Circumstance”
Written by Sir Edward Elgar
Performed by KHS Band
Written by John Lennon
Performed by John Lennon
“God Bless America”
Written by Irving Berlin
Performed by Kate Smith
Sony/ATV Music Publishing, LLC
Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.
McKay Elementary School, Tenafly, NJ
Thomas Kernan, Jr.
Tenafly Jr. High School
Horatio E. Wirtz
Tenafly High School
Dr. Joseph Laggini
Joanna Cole Giffard
© MMXI Vic Losick, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
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New York, NY 10024
© 2011 Vic Losick, Inc.