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Well, Jay, let’s move from the national scene to a local one. Americans United has now filed a precedent-setting lawsuit challenging the use of a church for a public high school graduation ceremony in Wisconsin.
We had asked a number of Wisconsin schools to stop the practice of holding graduations in churches. One complied, but the Elmbrook School District did not. It wants to go on having its activities in the Elmbrook Church in early June.
This shouldn’t even be a close question. The church has an enormous cross in its sanctuary (not surprising for a church) and plenty of other religious symbols throughout the building (also not surprising). The church refuses to cover up the icons of the faith, and I certainly understand that as well. What I don’t understand is why the two schools involved, years ago, didn’t start looking for another locus for the celebration of graduation day. Motivation should have been increased after church members distributed church literature to attendees in the lobby one year.
Our plaintiffs are not comfortable attending an event at the church
and wouldn’t go for a number of reasons. What could bother them in
addition to the symbols and literature distribution? The Elmbrook
Church is well-known for its particularly conservative viewpoints on
local and national issues. Non-Christians, it notes, go to hell. Gay
people, it teaches, act “contrary to God’s will.” And then there is its animosity toward Oprah Winfrey
for being a purveyor of false “spirituality.” All in all, it is easy to
understand why a lot of folks would feel a chill in the air as they sat
down in the Elmbrook pews.
There are other venues used by nearby school districts; Elmbrook
School District ought to use them also. It is wildly inappropriate to
make anyone feel like a second-class (and perhaps hell-bound) graduate
on this terribly important day in the life of many students and their
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