Lynn v. Sekulow

Lynn v. Sekulow


It’s a Graduation Ceremony, Not a Church Service

posted by Jay Sekulow

Barry, as you know, many graduation ceremonies are held in churches around the country every year.  The reason for this is simple and has nothing to do with religion:  the church facility, in many communities, provides the space needed to accommodate students, parents and friends for the graduation gathering.

 

Unfortunately, with your lawsuit in Wisconsin, you’re creating a constitutional showdown that is off base. You cite that your plaintiffs are not comfortable attending the graduation ceremony in a building where they disagree with what you call the church’s ‘conservative viewpoints’ on a host of issues.  Okay.  But this is a graduation ceremony – not a church service.  There will be no preaching.  No evangelizing.  It seems to me that you and your clients don’t like the theological teachings of this church.  That’s fine.  But, that has absolutely nothing to do with using the facility to host a graduation ceremony. By holding the graduation ceremony at the church facility, the school district is not ‘endorsing’ any religious viewpoint.

When I discussed this issue on Fox & Friends today, I used a sports analogy that is also commonplace in communities across the country.  What happens when a Christian school has the ‘home court’ advantage and hosts a public school team for a basketball game?  Should the game be cancelled because some students don’t want to play in a gym in a Christian school?  Should we cover up religious symbols in the gym?  How about the uniforms?  What if the Christian school has a religious symbol on its uniform?  Should they cover that up, too?  Of course not. 

 

And, what about using churches as polling places?  Voting precincts are set up in the middle of neighborhoods – communities – specific areas where people live.  And, not surprisingly, that’s where churches are located too.  Is there anything wrong with that?

 

Come on, Barry, you want to make this Wisconsin case a church/state issue when you’ve really admitted it’s a theological issue.  Would you have filed suit if the church in question supported same-sex marriage or embraced liberal theological teachings?

 

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Your Name

posted April 24, 2009 at 4:05 pm


I agree with Jay. It seems as though Rev. Lynn is putting more into the whole occasion than there really is. I grew up in a small town and we used some of the church buildings for community functions (other than church) because there was more room. We also used the school for functions other than schoolastic events (some were even church related)due to diverse reasons. I feel, especially for smaller towns and such, that there’s nothing wrong with using what’s available in the community to suit the event’s needs. It also has a special way of “bringing a community together”!



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Jimbino

posted April 24, 2009 at 4:58 pm


Great idea Jay: let’s just hold graduation services with Nuremberg Nazi banners on display! Why not a football match of Jews vs. Nazis in Old Nuremberg? Why not Christianists vs atheists on the atheist home court with “God is Dead” on display?
Get real. Religion is offensive per se. One difference between Christianists and atheists is that atheists are too considerate of Christianists to put up such offensive icons and banners. I guess that needs to change!



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Gwyddion9

posted April 24, 2009 at 5:40 pm


Honestly, if they can keep the religion out of the ceremony, i have no problem with having graduations and the like in churches. Many school districts don’t have the space for large gatherings so this can work, again as long as they keep religion out of it.



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John M

posted April 24, 2009 at 7:32 pm


I’m still not sure why any school district needs to use ANY house of worship for a graduation ceremony in the first place. Now admittedly, my June HS graduation took place somewhere back in the days when Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were still mop-topped Brits who brought strange accents to America, but have things changed that much? Why can’t they use a platform and folding chairs on the football field as we did? Can’t be that warm (even with global warming) in Wisconsin.



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Your Name

posted April 24, 2009 at 8:17 pm


I guess my view in opposition to the situation of holding public high school graduations in a church has three parts.
First, in this particular case at the Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, WI, the church charges the school district $2,200.00 to “host” the event. However, the church doesn’t pay any property taxes, (and it is a very large property) so they also don’t pay anything to support the public schools. If they were truly Christian, why wouldn’t they offer if free of charge?
Second, we do have separation of church and state in the United States, and parents and graduating public school students shouldn’t be forced into attending the event at a religious institution. This particular church doesn’t even have their own school. So the children of many of this church’s members attend public school. But again, the church doesn’t pay taxes to support the public schools.
Third, some people have commented that “it’s more comfortable to have the ceremony at the church because it’s air conditioned, and the school doesn’t have an auditorium”. To those people I say, why isn’t a fairly large public high school air conditioned, and why doesn’t it have an auditorium? Could it be because churches, which own a substantial amount of real estate, don’t pay any taxes which could go toward building an auditorium at the public high school, and air conditioning it?
The way I see it is that the students who attend this public high school are being forced to have their graduation ceremony held in a religious facility because the churches in their community don’t have to pay any property taxes, which could be used to update the school and bring it into the 21st century.
Go ahead and Google the Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin. See how much property it covers. And then remember they don’t pay taxes on ANY of it! But they’ll gladly let the public shool use the property- for a fee!!



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Kira

posted April 25, 2009 at 1:25 am


If this graduation ceremony were to be held in a Mosque or a Metropolitan Community Church would you be so blase about it? Would you be tossing aside the objections of parents and students like they were childish tantrums?



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Norm T.

posted April 25, 2009 at 1:40 am


Wow, now it is the Church’s fault for no auditoriums in school our public schools, it could not be the raise of wages to compensate the raise of medical and dental insurances, or the cost of living climbing to run such an facility like a public schools.
Property tax, really if one Church paid property tax on 20 archers we would only see very little a year added to the state or county budget (most Churches are smaller than 5 archers). This money is not going to build anything worthwhile in our public school.
Also keep in mind how many programs the Church is responsible for, even in my own community, like feeding those that can’t feed themselves, doing this keeps them off of government programs which puts money back to the state, the Church provides programs to turn drug and alcoholics around and they become a clean taxpaying citizen no longer needing court state funded court fee’s also the cost of jail and prison moneys to keep them alive for the crimes they commit, this is a huge amount of money saved for the state budget that goes unseen. The Church programs created to visit inmates in a Correctional Institution and help them change and not return. California has the highest return rate of our local prisons and Corrections more than any other state; this problem takes moneys from our school districts and the local Church is doing something about it, and has on many occasions that I personally know of, this saves an enormous amount of money. There is many, many programs as such that keeps moneys in the state budget for other useful things like auditoriums.
The cost the Church charges is the same as my Church was charged to utilize the schools facility. The cost to run AC and pay for things like security, janitorial and other services for this type of event, the cost of the PA person and sound man for music and stage microphones and any other entertainment cost all needs to be accounted for. They probably have snacks and treats afterwards for the guests all these things add up.
But the real reason, when someone just hates something or someone, in their mind with that resentment when this person or thing does good they cannot see it. Hate causes people to become distorted in all their observations towards the resented object even a person, it causes (even me) to see the worst and think the worst, even though that person may do something like, give all they have or lay down their life, die in the line of duty while at war, this person could even die for the whole world and die for all their neighbors and even die for the one that hates them, the resentment will see this as, meaningless and or worthless and never good enough as examples?
This is for the kids, if the kids graduating were questioned, without coaching from parents, I believe not one would have a problem that the facility is also a Church, we need to all grow up over these issues and let the kids enjoy their moment and the parents and bureaucracy needs to go get attention some other way and leave this moment for the kids.



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DSJulian

posted April 25, 2009 at 4:24 am


Come on Sekulow. You know full well that there is no real reason for holding the graduation ceremony in a church sanctuary in any community. It is not the church property per se that is at issue here but the deeply religious location inside the property. If the ceremony were being held in a large fellowship hall or auditorium it would not have the same religious significance. You also know your case was lost the minute one of the parishioners passed out church literature to the attendees of a previous graduation. I vote in a church building in my precinct every election. But it is in the basement, with a separate rear entrance, and no religious symbols in the voting room or hallways. If the voting booths were in the main sanctuary I would file the same kind of formal complaint. And you also know that if the students were told their graduation would be held in a mosque or synagogue all hell would break loose.
If the church was really being generous, they could easily cover their crosses and other icons with American flags for one day. The fact that they are not willing to extend even that courtesy should disqualify them from any further proselytizing, shamelessly disguised as graduations.



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The Rev

posted April 25, 2009 at 9:59 am


It seems to me that the “non-religious” posters here are afraid to have a graduation ceremony held in a church. Why? What are you afraid of?
What harm can come from it? Tell me that. State your case, folks.
By the way, there is no “seperation of church and state”. The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”. Where does it say there is a seperation of church and state? Nowhere. Not in the Constitution, not in the Bill of (the people’s) Rights, not in the Declaration of Independence.
What the First Amendment is saying is that there cannot be a government sanctioned religion. BUT, if you read your history, ladies and gentlemen, the Founders had no intention of keeping religion out of government, and in fact sought to ensure that America’s leaders were Christian men.
Visit my homepage and read A Christian Nation. The evidence is clear.
The Rev



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Boris

posted April 25, 2009 at 10:16 am


The Christian clergy of the Revolutionary period tried again and again to have references to Christianity inserted directly into the U.S. Constitution, but they were refused every time by the Founders.
Certainly the Rev. James Wilson, a Reformed Presbyterian minister, felt that James Madison was an infidel. In his attack on the US Constitution, Prince Messiah’s Claim to Dominion Over all Governments: and the Disregard of His Authority by the United States, in the Federal Constitution (1832) Rev. Wilson laments the lack of a Christian founding. Wilson claimed:
It is believed, that there never existed, previous to this constitution, any national deed like this, since the creation of the world. A nation having no God! In vain shall we search the annals of pagan Greece and Rome, of modern Asia, Africa, pagan America, and the isles of the sea—they have all worshipped some God. The United States have none. But here let us pause over this astounding fact. Was it a mere omission? Did the convention that framed the constitution forget to name the living God? Was this an omission in some moment of national frenzy, when the nation forgot God? That, indeed, were a great sin. God says, “the nations that forget God, shall be turned into hell.” [Ps. 9:17.] It was not, however, a thoughtless act, an undesigned omission. It was a deliberate deed, whereby God was rejected; and in the true atheistical spirit of the whole instrument, and of course, done with intent to declare national independence of the Lord of hosts.
As far as Wilson could see not one of the seven residents of the White House, to that date, had been a Christian. For Washington he says: “There is no satisfactory evidence that Washington was a professor of the Christian religion , or even a speculative believer in its divinity…” and he “was President of the convention, that voted the name of the living God out of the Constitution.” Wilson notes that Adams, who was a Unitarian, took office next followed by Jefferson, “an avowed infidel, and notoriously addicted to immorality.” And then we come to James Madison:
Mr. Jefferson’s successor, Mr. Madison, was educated by godly parents, with a view to the Ministry of reconciliation. He commenced the study of Theology, under the care of Dr. Witherspoon, President of Princeton College, where he attended a prayer meeting of the pious youth of that Seminary, who were preparing for the Holy Ministry.
When he returned from Princeton to his fathers house in Virginia, Mr. Jefferson was a young village lawyer, who had attracted the notice of the neighborhood, by his regular business habits, in collecting debts, drawing indentures, &c.
Madison, to the grief of his parents, abandoned the study of Theology, and entered the office of the infidel and libertine Jefferson, as a student of law. Though Mr. Madison has pledged himself neither in public nor private, to the belief of Christianity, yet he is not known to have employed his influence, like Jefferson, in attempts to abolish the Christian Faith.
Rev. Wilson called President Monroe “a second rate Athenian Philosopher” and declined to say much about Presidents John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson since they “are yet in public life” but the said that no “Federal Cabinet since the first formed, has given any more evidence for the fear of the Lord, than did that of Washington.”
It would be fair to say that the “preponderance of the evidence” is that Mr. Madison was a deist but it is not “beyond a shadow of a doubt.” But then it doesn’t have to be. The evidence that does exist certainly indicates that Madison was not a Christian. His close friendship with Jefferson must have had some impact on his ideas especially since Jefferson was so strongly an opponent of Christian theology in his personal life, something no close friend would fail to notice. To have worked this intimately with a man for decades would, no doubt, have required some meeting of the minds on this matter. That Madison, even more so than Jefferson, was the architect of the doctrine of separation of church and state, gives more credence to the theory that he was deist. At the same time, what is missing, is one shred of evidence James Madison ever expressed an orthodox view of Christianity after he began his lifelong friendship with Jefferson. With some evidence that Madison was a deist, and none indicating he remained an orthodox Christian, the most honest conclusion is that he probably became an infidel, as his friend, Rev. Balmaine stated.
Rev. Balmaine was a real Rev, Rev.



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Jimbino

posted April 25, 2009 at 5:08 pm


Boris,
You are almost always right, but how do you justify spending your valuable time debating Christianists who can’t even spell “separation”?



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daniel rotter

posted April 25, 2009 at 5:12 pm


“the Founders…sought to ensure that America’s leaders were Christian men.”
That can only be said to be true if the Constitution only allowed “Christian men” to hold public office, but, fortunately (or, apparently, unfortunately, for “The Rev.”), that is not the case. Without such a test, how can it be “ensured” that “America’s leaders were Christian men?”



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Lowell

posted April 25, 2009 at 6:31 pm


“It’s a Graduation Ceremony, Not a Church Service” Exactly the reason it should not be held in a church or any other place littered with religious trinkets and propaganda.



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Boris

posted April 26, 2009 at 12:54 am


Jimbino,
I’m not interested in debating The Rev. When I see a post like his that is just filled with untruths I refute it for the benefit of the innocent bystander or reader who might be fooled by Christian propaganda.



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LutheranChik

posted April 26, 2009 at 2:34 pm


Judging from the decidedly sub-par religious education I see demonstrated by the most zealous, in-your-face Christians every day on Beliefnet and elsewhere, perhaps these churches need to invest their energies in the religious formation of their own members and youth instead of coopting secular graduation ceremonies for purposes of proselytization. Just sayin’.
In the meantime, here’s a thought — for persons who want a religious component to their graduation celebrations, how about a community baccalaureate organized by a local ministerial council and held in a member church, at a time other than the school graduation ceremony? It seems like a sensible option to me. The “loud” churches would never go for this, though, because it defeats their purpose of insinuating religion into secular public education…and of course you might have the “wrong” (i.e. non-conservative-Evangelical) brand of faith community host the event, further thwarting their plans.



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ds0490

posted April 26, 2009 at 10:09 pm


“It seems to me that the “non-religious” posters here are afraid to have a graduation ceremony held in a church. Why? What are you afraid of?”
Excellent! Then I trust you are OK with schools holding their graduation ceremonies in Mosques, Synagogues, Temples, Zendos, and other spaces designed for other religions. After all, if non-Christians should not be afraid of holding graduations in Christian churches, Christians should not be afraid of their children graduating in a Mosque, should they?



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Craig

posted April 27, 2009 at 9:56 am


As a Jewish American I would have very strong objections to having my graduation or my children’s graduation in a church, or a synagogue or mosque for that matter. Whether any proselytizing takes place or not, just having the symbols there creates a coercive environment. No public school ceremony should be held in any religious facility. Those who are supporting the school district are probably christians who think there’s nothing wrong with invoking jesus’ name in public school. It is narrow minded and inappropriate. This lawsuit is absolutely necessary and correct.



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Craig

posted April 27, 2009 at 10:00 am


In addition, yes I think there is a problem with churches as polling places. It is unfortunate that certain communities have no choice, but I believe that churches should not be used for any government sponsored activities.



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Katie

posted April 27, 2009 at 12:52 pm


This post completely misses the point on what is wrong with the graduation ceremony. The suit has nothing to do with disagreeing with the specific theological beliefs. However, the extreme nature of the views of this particular church help clearly illustrate why it is unconstitutional, at this church or any other. For example, this church holds the opinion that homosexuals will go to hell. If you have a homosexual student, at this PUBLIC school, that student is making a choice between missing his or her own graduation ceremony, to which he or she is completely entitled, or entering the church that represents those views.
A church is more than just a building, and most religious people I am sure would agree. A church is full of symbols, books, imagery, history and tradition of the religion it represents. Even if you move a graduation to that building, especially in this case with the enormous cross and Bibles in the pews, it is much more than just four walls.
Due respect, this sports analogy is completely ridiculous! When you play a sporting event, there are two teams, the home team, and the visiting team. And the public school students in the above scenario are just that, visitors! It is an accepted part of the practice of sports that one team has a home court advantage. You travel to other locations, and all locations are different. If you are a public school playing against a private school (where I grew up private schools played in separate leagues, thus making the scenario irrelevant) then the markings of that private school are present, just as if you play the Lions, there are probably lions painted in the gym. A private school is privately funded and attended by those who choose, and usually pay, to attend it. They can have any symbols they want. That has nothing to do with a public school, that is publicly funded and attended by students of many (or no) faiths and backgrounds, taking arguably the most significant event of a student’s time there and hosting it in an indisputably religious setting.
And YES, there is something wrong with using churches as polling places. Perhaps for another day…..



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The Rev

posted April 30, 2009 at 12:08 pm


Boris posted: “As far as Wilson could see not one of the seven residents of the White House, to that date, had been a Christian. For Washington he says: ‘There is no satisfactory evidence that Washington was a professor of the Christian religion , or even a speculative believer in its divinity…'”
I give you:
“It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”
“It is impossible to account for the creation of the universe, without the agency of a Supreme Being. It is impossible to govern the universe without the aid of a Supreme Being. It is impossible to reason without arriving at a Supreme Being.”
“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens.”
The above words are from Washington’s personal prayer book. It seems your source is incorrect.
The Rev



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The Rev

posted April 30, 2009 at 12:11 pm


ds0490 posted: “‘It seems to me that the “non-religious” posters here are afraid to have a graduation ceremony held in a church. Why? What are you afraid of?’
Excellent! Then I trust you are OK with schools holding their graduation ceremonies in Mosques, Synagogues, Temples, Zendos, and other spaces designed for other religions. After all, if non-Christians should not be afraid of holding graduations in Christian churches, Christians should not be afraid of their children graduating in a Mosque, should they?”
My reply: No, I wouldn’t. Remember, the anti-religious are the ones compaining about the venue. Not the religious.
The Rev



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Boris

posted April 30, 2009 at 6:53 pm


Rev,
I checked your website. You’re one of Gary DeMar’s Reconstructionist disciples. As far as Washington’s supposed prayer journal sorry to be the one to give you the news, you’re BUSTED. Read it and weep:
Friday, August 8, 2008
Washington’s Prayer Journal, A Fraud
Sorry, I have to put it so bluntly. No serious historian could accept the validity of George Washington’s “The Daily Sacrifice” Prayer Journal. Handwriting experts have proven that the journal was not written in his own hand. And even pietists Peters Lillback and Marshall refuse to endorse it.
Brad Hart pointed to a very valuable source that irrefutably proves the journal a fraud. From that source, Frank E. Grizzard’s assessment in an email he sent to Ed Brayton:
“The so-called prayer journal is not in GW’s writing, although I’m not sure it’s actually a forgery. The manuscript dealer (Burk I think) who first sold it when it came to light in the 19th century printed a facsimile edition in which he admits that the Smithsonian rejected it as a non-GW document, but it did have Washington family provenance, so he said. Thus it apparently was a descendant’s. Johnson’s version is taken from Burk. The prayers are based on the English prayer book.” — Frank Grizzard (senior associate editor of the George Washington Papers collection at University of Virginia) [in an email he sent] to Ed Brayton (2004).
Rev, some of us just love to discredit fraudsters on this blog. The fact that you would promote the hoax of this long debunked prayer journal as authentic has forever ruined your integrity here.



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Derek Dadey

posted May 1, 2009 at 11:34 am


Personnally I am one of the most godless anti-religion heathens out there, but I don’t see the big deal. So long as there are no religious overtones(prayers hymns etc..), to me(and presumably to my heathen brethren as weel)a church is just a big building with a cross on top. It’s not the building I object to, just the foolishness that goes on inside. I had my grad in a chuch and couldn’t have cared less, there was no mention of anything jesus-y and everyone was fine with it.



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History Matters

posted May 3, 2009 at 8:01 pm


The complaint from Americans United said that a primary reason for the lawsuit is that “having graduation there creates ‘a religious atmosphere that makes non-Christians uncomfortable.'” No where in the U.S. Constitution is there language about creating a religious atmosphere or keeping people from feeling uncomfortable. In fact, the same Congress who wrote the First Amendment also allowed (and attended) Christian worship services in the U.S. Capitol chambers and sponsored a printing of 20,000 Bibles for use in the public schools.
But forget about Congress’ actions in the early days. Just read the language of the Amendment. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” The first word is “Congress.” That is the body limited by the Amendment. How do we get from that to disallowing a school from holding ceremonies in a more comfortable setting than they could otherwise provide, simply because that facility happens to be a church?
Come to think of it, should Americans United declare the Wisconsin constitution unconstitutional unto itself? It was ratified in 1848 and says:
“We, the people of Wisconsin, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom….”
And in Article I:
“The right of every person to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of conscience shall never be infringed…”
And in Article X:
“…the legislature by law may, for the purpose of religious instruction outside the district schools, authorize the release of students during regular school hours.”



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Your Name

posted May 4, 2009 at 2:42 am


I READ THIS ON A BLOG AND HAVE BEEN TRYING TO POST ON A COUPLE OF OTHERS, BUT NOBODY SEEMS TO POST. MR OBAMA HAS SPENT OVER $950,000. IN CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS ON 12 DIFFERENT LAW FIRMS IN 11 DIFFERENT STATES TO KEEP HIDDEN HIS PERSONAL PAPERS. IS THE REASON THE OTHER BLOGS WON’T ACCEPT IS THAT SPENDING CAMPAIGN FUNDS ON PERSONAL ITEMS IS AGAINST THE LAW? I PROBABLY DON’T KNOW WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT, BUT INTERESTED?



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Lowell

posted May 6, 2009 at 12:39 am


The Rev posted:
April 30, 2009 12:08 PM
“It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”
Guess what, Rev? That alleged Washington “quote” is a fabrication. Even “Christian nation” propagandist David Barton disavows it.



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a4e4me

posted May 13, 2009 at 2:08 pm


The end point of the separation of church and state might be real use of the establishment clause. The fact that “Church property” is exempt from property taxes, while a private tennis club is taxable, says that we have and do make laws(tax preferences) regarding the establishment of religion. NO LAW doesn’t mean ‘just justified laws to help sincere and valid religious groups’.



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Kathryn

posted January 19, 2010 at 3:27 pm


I agree that holding a graduation ceremony in a church does not force the religion onto the people attending or even touch on the object of converting people into believers of that religion. I disagree that this could not be viewed as the school endorsing a particular religion. I believe the reason for people’s objections to having this ceremony in a place of worship stems from the fact that it is know that the church is a sacred place of worship. People of other religions can recognize that, even if the religion is not explicitly condoned or commented about, there is something spiritual about the place unique to the religion that practices there. Implicitly, at least to some, it is an enforcement of the religion on the part of the school.



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buy umbrella

posted August 10, 2010 at 9:02 pm


Good writing, and I very much agree with your thoughts and insights. Hope that more could write such a good word, I said, to continue coming to visit, thank you for sharing.i love buy umbrella very much .



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buy umbrella

posted August 24, 2010 at 9:52 pm


Good writing, and I very much agree with your thoughts and insights. Hope that more could write such a good word, I said, to continue coming to visit, thank you for sharing.i love buy umbrella very much .



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