Public schools, graduation, and church

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A headline in our local paper grabbed my attention: “Schools defend holding graduation in church.”1 According to the article, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing a public school district in Connecticut for hosting its high school graduation in a church. The ACLU claims it is a violation of the First Amendment and that the government (in the form of the public school) is endorsing religion. Once again the mantra of “separation of church and state” rears its ugly head.

Some schools choose to have their graduation in churches because their own facilities are too small, and by having graduation at a church, more family members and friends can attend. One of the biggest issues in the case may be how much a church actually looks like a church. Many newer churches build sanctuaries to serve multiple purposes (e.g., gymnasium), so many traditional church items like crosses and altars are not present. According to the ACLU, these types of churches may be acceptable, since they would not have any religious influence on the students attending the graduation.

Chris Bryant, a law professor at University of Cincinnati, stated, “The government is not supposed to be doing something that’s giving its imprimatur to one religion or another, or even religion over non-religion, and that could be a really difficult point for the schools in this case.” But that is exactly what the government run public schools do! What the public schools call non-religion is actually atheism, a religious belief that God does not exist. I don’t know of any public school that promotes both religion and “non-religion” equally; rather, the preference is given to atheism. This is vividly seen in the science classroom with the teaching of evolution, but also in the removal of prayer, the ten commandments, religious symbols, songs and plays associated with Christmas, and prejudice against student-run Christian groups wishing to meeting on school grounds.

It is sad to think that some students who have spent 13 years preparing for graduation may not be able to have family members and friends attend their special day because the ACLU is concerned the students might be wrongly influenced by a cross hanging on the wall of a church. Pray for our nation and its leaders to affirm the truthfulness and authority of God’s Word and become a Christian nation once again.

1. Ben Fischer, Schools defending holding graduation in church. Cincinnati Enquirer, May 16, 2010.

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