Anti-church killjoys target high school graduations

Having a child graduate from high school is an exciting event for any family. It marks the end of one chapter in the student’s life, and the beginning of a new one.  Graduation marks a turning point for young people; where they move on to seek new and productive education and career opportunities for themselves. Unfortunately, Americans United for Separation of Church and State is trying to turn what should be enjoyable and emotionally fulfilling times for families into unwanted and unnecessary religious debates.

AUSCS is now threatening to sue the School Board in Cherokee County, Georgia, simply because it is planning to hold graduation ceremonies, as the county has since 2005, at First Baptist Church in Woodstock.  County officials argue that holding this annual event in churches helps bring down costs; a very valid point at a time when many local governments are looking for any way to save scarce resources. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, one school official noted that a church might charge $2,000 to host the event, where another venue could cost as much as $40,000.

Also important from a practical standpoint, is the fact that many schools do not have indoor facilities capable of accommodating the many thousands of parents, grandparents, other relatives, and friends wanting to be present to watch their children, grandchildren, siblings, and childhood friends accomplish something as important as receiving that cherished diploma. 

High school graduations are a special and joyous time in communities all across this country; and have been for many generations.  Special and joyous for everyone, that is, except for the killjoys at Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

AUSCS loves lawsuits; and its lawyers will file one at the drop of a dime because God’s name is invoked on the face of our currency or, as here, because a school wants to hold a non-religious ceremony in a building in which, at other times, religious ceremonies take place.  Why?  Because in the minds of the super litigious folks at AUSCS, someone in the audience at a graduation ceremony, or perhaps even one of the graduating students, might have palpitations because the prospect of sitting in a church – even for a non-church event – would cause mental discomfort to their fragile psyches. 

This, my fellow Americans, is pure poppycock. I doubt seriously if more than a small handful of parents or students care where the ceremony is held, just so long as it is held; and preferably inside so they don’t have to risk sunstroke by sitting in an outdoor stadium in 90-plus degree heat because the school doesn’t have an auditorium large enough to accommodate the event.  Besides, even if there are a few folks who subscribe to the no-religion-anytime-anyplace-anyhow philosophy that is the heart and soul (if they believe humans have souls) of Americans United, well, tough bananas.  Why should 5,000 be inconvenienced to satisfy the thirst for lawsuits of a handful of lawyers at the AUSCS, when there is no harm to anyone in the first place?

The “Establishment clause” in the First Amendment to our Constitution is designed to prohibit state-mandated religion and to protect individuals from state interference in their exercise of religion if they so choose.  Now, thanks to the misguided efforts of groups like Americans United for Separation of Church and State, this important bulwark against government interference, is being reduced to the absurdity of empowering lawyers to stop high school graduations because someone might feel “uncomfortable” just sitting in a church for an hour in order to witness a totally non-religious event. 

Unfortunately, many courts have provided forums for these AUSCS lawsuits, and the organization has even enjoyed a degree of success – a situation that has caused some jurisdictions to cave in to its threats.  This is most unfortunate, because the students and their families are the losers, and it simply encourages more such nonsensical actions in the future.

111 comments Add your comment

Joel Edge

December 8th, 2010
6:56 am

Amen!
And I don’t mean that in any religion based way. I just agree.
Please, don’t sue me.

Ben

December 8th, 2010
7:15 am

I orignally posted this on the post Mr. Barr put on facebook so it makes slightly less sense here

No one makes mention of tradition. Maybe they moved to the church in ‘05 as a cost cutting measure? As others have stated who cares where the event is held? As long as the school is not forcing prayer upon these people or holding service during the ceremony its not really being held IN a church more like an indoor facility that on various holy days holds church like functions. Every other day its pretty much just a building.

Its kind of like going to a stadium that holds various sporting events. If I go to a hockey game it doesn’t mean im watching a basketball game there because they happen to hold hockey AND basketball games at that facility.

Michael

December 8th, 2010
7:15 am

Bob! Do you think anyone would be offended if graduation was held at the Church of Satan? As a serious agnostic, I see the spreading of any organized religion like the spreading of any disease. I know my kids are smart enough not to fall for religious BS, but not all parents want to have other peoples hazardous beliefs shoved on their kids. Would you want your children hanging around sick kids or drug dealers? Nope! Let’s fix the root problem….. Why can’t we find a nice place like a convention center for the kids to graduate.

Joel Edge

December 8th, 2010
7:30 am

Michael@7:15
WOW!!!
“organized religion like the spreading of any disease”
“”religious BS”
“hazardous beliefs”
Associating the religious with “sick kids or drug dealers”
I would say you’re more than a serious agnostic.

Oxnard

December 8th, 2010
7:39 am

Michael@7:15
Did you forget to take your medications again??

Rich

December 8th, 2010
7:41 am

Our rights as humans and Americans are constantly under attack by people who have no clue what freedom means. This group of lawyers and the guy who says he thinks religion is a disease all need to go back to school and learn some new skills, like reading and comprehension. Stop all your crying and go do something good.

Jeff

December 8th, 2010
7:45 am

I don’t think Michael knows what agnostic means.

Jim

December 8th, 2010
7:49 am

How about a mosque, Bob?

Joel Edge

December 8th, 2010
7:54 am

Jim@7:49
I don’t think a mosque would be a problem. Given the Muslim tendency to avoid religious depictions. I’ve been in mosques and they’re rather plain inside. A lot of white. If no services were being held. Any large open space shouldn’t be a problem.

carlosgvv

December 8th, 2010
7:58 am

This is the age of lawsuits. I blame the courts for this as someone in charge has to decide which lawsuits will make it to trial and which ones won’t. Apparently, any old lawsuit is ok with them.

Michael

December 8th, 2010
8:02 am

Mr. Barr,

First let me start off by saying that I agree that the lawsuit appears a bit frivolous (from how you present it, and since you fail to provide any reference or source for this article, that is all we have).

However, I have multiple disagreements over what you presented here, both as a libertarian and a catholic.

For one, you ask who cares if a few people are inconvenienced by it being in a Church? My staunch reply is The Constitution. I am not sure if you are read up on constitutional law, but the law has overwhelmingly sided with individual rights over community preference. This is because civil liberties have nothing to do with preference and everything to do with rights (you know, those inalienable things our forefathers fought to get in the constitution?)

The previous Michael (not me) makes an excellent point: most people, especially in communities such as the one described here, would throw a monster of a fit if the school held the graduation in a Satanist Church, even if the church provided the facilities free of charge. And the school would acquiesce.

That is the problem with community preference: it is highly conditional and that is why it serves to violate rights of US Citizens. I can honestly say, as a catholic, that I would be uncomfortable holding a graduation ceremony in a Catholic Church, because the church is a place for God (in my mind), not for stuff like this. And requiring a student to attend the graduation in a church or have no graduation ceremony constitutes a violation of religious freedom and a form of leveraging on the part of the school district.

I must say, with each new article, you shed your libertarian roots and have begun to adopt the sentiments of the far right. This trend among politicians is a danger to our civil liberties and our freedom.

And please start citing your sources and references. That should be a given.

Michael

Ragnar Danneskjöld

December 8th, 2010
8:05 am

I fear our host has veered into the problem: “someone in the audience at a graduation ceremony, or perhaps even one of the graduating students, might have palpitations because the prospect of sitting in a church – even for a non-church event – would cause mental discomfort to their fragile psyches.”

My acquaintance with non-believers suggests that the lack of anchor in their lives makes this a genuine risk. I think neither a Christian nor a Jew would have discomfort in a mosque, nor would a Mohammedan have heart palpitations in a synagogue or church. (And a Jew would feel right at home in a Baptist Church.) It is only those with no beliefs, no basis for principles, who are frightened by association with the Holy.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

December 8th, 2010
8:09 am

Dear Michael #2 @ 8:02, suggest you re-read the actual language of the First Amendment, and ignore the poorly-reasoned jurisprudence that arose beginning with the Warren Court.

The First Amendment does not create any “right,” the language being in stark contrast with Amendments Two through Eight. That portion of the First Amendment dealing with religion merely creates a restriction on Congress, to avoid budget expenditure for charity (an intent obviously ignored serially by Congress since the 1930s.)

Whiz

December 8th, 2010
8:11 am

Lettuce pray

resno2

December 8th, 2010
8:12 am

Simple solution. Have the AUSCS pay the $38,000 difference in the cost and I’m sure the county would be more than happy to move the ceremony.

Woodstock Resident

December 8th, 2010
8:14 am

Bravo Michael (8:02am)! As a former member of the church in question and a life-long Christian, I believe this to be a not-so-subtle attempt to evangelize by environment the unwitting masses. Call it a contact high, if you will. Regardless, the church sets the price so low as to make it a no-brainer (eating the true cost to host) and the school district takes the bate. Of course, here in the grand old south, group think in religious circles creates the ability to ignore those who might have a different opinion on the matter. I would be upset if my child was required to graduate in the church of satan, or a mosque, or synagog, a kingdom hall or the largest Baptist church in the area. Is it seriously not an option to graduate in the football stadium like myself and wife did?!? Do you need protection from the elements that bad or does our narcissistic society demanded 50 people watch Johnny get his diploma?!? Geeze…

Cynthia

December 8th, 2010
8:16 am

I seriously don’t think Muslims would allow secular activities in their houses of worship. Christians, on the other hand…hey if it saves money…and goodness knows it’s empty most days of the week anyway, so why not? I’m a nontheist myself and in the end for me a building is a building. The last 7 yrs I’ve voted I’ve done it in a booth at the local Methodist church. Where were these guys then? Afraid to have your kids hanging at a local church? Then instruct them properly at home as is your right as a parent on the fallacies of religion, so when they go in there they don’t get suckered in by the whole Mickey Mouse died for you and wants to be your leader mentality. Geeez, people how hard is that??

George

December 8th, 2010
8:17 am

Michael@8:02(Not the other Michael)

Bob is referring here to an article a few days ago in the AJC. The overwhelming issues for the Cherokee School Board appears to be 1) The availability of facilities and 2) The cost of renting those facilities. If, as they say, it might cost 20 times more to rent a public arena, then to me that represents a wise expenditure of their diminishing funds. As a libertarian, that absolutely appeals to me.

It seems to me that you could make a better argument by attacking the use of churches as polling places for elections. If you are uncomfortable as a catholic attending a graduation ceremony in a church, then it must absolutely terrify you if you have to cast your vote in a church.

George

SP

December 8th, 2010
8:24 am

Since it’s been upheld that church’s can rent out government facilities (several church’s in my area hold services in schools) – doesn’t this apply the other way around?

Had

December 8th, 2010
8:28 am

To Mr. Ragnar Danneskjold

I am an atheist. I do not mind calling Christmas “Christmas.” I also would not mind attending my child’s graduation ceremony in a church as long as I don’t have to endure a prayer meeting. What I do mind is having some bible-thumping idiot such as yourself tell me that I am somehow “frightened” by the idea of “the Holy.” You sir do not know what I think and what I fear. And you damn sure do not know what’s best for me and my family. I only wish there really was a hell so I could tell you to go there.

Joel Edge

December 8th, 2010
8:32 am

Cynthia@8:16
“I seriously don’t think Muslims would allow secular activities in their houses of worship.”
From my meager understanding, they generally don’t. Using a mosque for something as non-religious as a graduation would cause some issues, I believe. The building’s gonna be there. Might as well use it.

Woodstock Resident

December 8th, 2010
8:32 am

I find it ironic that the terminology of the “separation of church and state” first brought up by Thomas Jefferson was likely borrowed from a 1644 book titled “The Bloody Tenent of Persecution”, written by Roger Williams, the founder of the First Baptist Church of America. This religious freedom being sought by the new American Colonies was an effort to protect the citizens from persecution or mandating of religion by the federal government. Here in 2010, in the deep south, there is great support to mandate religion (as long as it is ours, Christianity) by looking first to religious institutions who happen to have the square footage available. Few of our fellow patriotic Americans connect the dots or see the ironic change in the winds. Just because many people agree with you does not make you right.

Dave

December 8th, 2010
8:40 am

Churches are indoctrination centers. It’s almost like having the graduation at a strip bar, but it’s ok since there won’t be any naked strippers there… Bull$#!t – I’m not buying it. GOOD on AUSCS! Keep preventing churches from getting their hooks into kids.

Don’t be fooled… These damn churches will take every opportunity to “slip you a Jesus” when nobody is looking. I don’t need my kids exposed to a cannibalistic blood-cult based on human sacrifice & eating flesh & drinking blood – NO THANKS!!

Greg in the Highlands

December 8th, 2010
8:41 am

My graduating class of 600 was held in the school gym. There was a limit of 2 people allowed for each graduate. The brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, stepchildren, cashier from the Piggly Wiggly, the postal carrier, the meter reader and others had to wait for the party that followed at home. The thought of forcing someone to enter a building used for religious purposes was never entertained by the school board.
This was over 30 years ago and that policy is still in place.

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James W. Conger, Jr.

December 8th, 2010
8:46 am

Mr. Barr:

Our constitution’s establishment clause has been pretty well interpreted by courts all the way to the U.S. Supreme. Holding a public school graduation in a church violates the right of all our people to be free from government’s forcing us to be exposed to religion and religious ideas and values. In this case, in isolation, it seems overblown and almost silly. But this represents the camel’s nose under the flap of the tent.

Merry Christmas to you and yours. Don’t forget the reason for the season.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

December 8th, 2010
8:51 am

Dear had @ 8:28, by your plain words you take yourself outside the scope of those with palpitations, and thus outside the scope of the weenies whose unbelief I condemn. My only regret is my wish that others who share your unbelief would not fell compelled to try to control the lives and rational decisions of others.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

December 8th, 2010
8:53 am

Dear Mr. Conger @ 8:46, I disagree: “Our constitution’s establishment clause has been pretty well interpreted by courts all the way to the U.S. Supreme.” Quite the contrary, I would affirm that the establishment clause has been incompetently interpreted by the court beginning with the activist Warren era.

common man

December 8th, 2010
8:53 am

Someone somewhere is going to potentially be offended about something. So lets just scrap graduation ceremonies altoghether and just mail out all the
diplomas so no one can claim any potential harm or discomfort. The sensitivities of the few outweigh the sensibilities of the many. We are a sorry lot.

J

December 8th, 2010
8:55 am

I wonder how many of these people that get annoyed at people not just excepting everything christian, are not christian. Very easy to look around and say, hmmm this shouldn’t bother anyone, when it’s something that supports everything YOU believe it, try it when it’s something you DON”T believe in. How big would the stink be if they held graduation in a Synagogue, or a Mosque?

Ragnar Danneskjöld

December 8th, 2010
8:57 am

Dear J @ 8:55, answered @ 8:05.

Morgan

December 8th, 2010
8:58 am

Read the constitution, no really read it. It does not say anything about “Separation between church and state”, but rather “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. Technically the U.S. Constitution should not really even be the main reference hear either since we are in Georgia the Georgia State Constitution and/or Georgia State laws are what is important. Since Georgia state law does not says anything about this sort of thing it is perfectly legal for the school to do this. As so many of you obviously were not taught or don’t remember the U.S. Constitution applies directly to the federal government and what them can and can’t do and has absolutely nothing to do with what happens at a school gradduation in the State of Georgia.

For once in a long time I have heard of a school board using funds wisely. There is only a limited amount of money and they can’t please everyone. This is why they must pick a locale which is within their budget and try to please as many people as they can. I don’t care if they had it at the Super Dome someone would have a problem with it. I believe they have done this. Do you think the majority of people would be more happy with the event outside? No. Do you think the majority of people would be more happy with the event at a Satanist Church? No. Do what you can to make the majority of people happy and everyone else can freakin grow up.

Mike

December 8th, 2010
8:58 am

I did not see in the article, is the ceremony to be held in a church or an annex belonging to the church? If it’s an annex, or other building, then I don’t care. If it is in a church, I don’t know if I want my child to be exposed to such graphic depictions of violence and savagry as depicited in most of the churches I’ve visited.

John Frankle

December 8th, 2010
8:58 am

This is idiotic. Abe Lincoln essentially said “You can please all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but not all the people all the time.” Whatever happened to common sense in this “democratic” country? One person or group gets “offended” so therefore an event should be cancelled. Think about it people – how stupid are we getting? If this AUSCS and their backers are so serious about not offending anybody (except the overwhelming majority) then why don’t they find a place to hold the ceremony and contribute some of the extra money it will cost. They miniscule minority doesn’t care about celebrations, all they care about is how they feel.

Rich

December 8th, 2010
9:00 am

Wow, some interesting thoughts and a few truly bizarre statements, like the one comparing strip clubs and churches. Mommy and daddy must be very proud of that kid! Perhaps you should find a copy of that evil book that teaches human sacrifice and flesh eating and actually read it.

Bill

December 8th, 2010
9:01 am

Michael is right – I can only imagine the ‘moral’ outcry that would be raised if the graduation (and taxpayer money, let’s not forget) was being sent to a Mosque. Cost-savings would be deemed irrelevant in THAT instance.
Religion is distructive and while people are certainly welcome to choose their poison, it’s not “poppycock” for people of reason to be uncomfortable with the thought of having an important life event held inside the temple of a cult. It’s time to shed the ridiculous concept that Christianism is – and should be – “the norm.”

J

December 8th, 2010
9:04 am

Dear Ragnar it would be my experience that while what you wrote is a fantastic and honorable philosophy the reality is not quite so naive. Hence the reason there are counties in GA up in arms over zoning boards allowing Mosques to be built in their neighborhood. I would bet a lot of money that if this school was holding their graduation in a Mosque, or a Synagogue or any place of worship that wasn’t christian Mr Barr would be leading the charge to have the entire school board, hung.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

December 8th, 2010
9:06 am

Dear Rich @ 9:00, great argument. Similarly our leftist friends believe the First Amendment protects pole dancing and government funding of a crucifix in urine, but does not protect political speech by corporations.

Trapped in a Red state

December 8th, 2010
9:08 am

You are missing the point, Bob. The PAYMENT to the church is, in effect subsidizing that church. Have the ceremonies on the football fields after sunset like mine in the class of ‘66, here in Ga.
There is precious few non religious influenced laws and norms in this states it is.
Prohibition of retail sales of alcohol on sundays for one. What is the rational for that BLUE law except a religious bias. Even the JEWS know not to protest that one too loudly in this backward state. They rightly fear a pro christian backlash.
BTW, what chance does a self proclaimed atheist have getting elected to ANY office in this state ?
You see Bob, You have been on the “inside looking out” your entire life and have never even considered this alternate point of view from those of us “one the outside, looking in”. To many of us God is a myth perpetrated thu the ages by self serving, authoritarian minded people who, in my view, lack intellectual curiosity and open mindedness.
I do not shared these views openly because of this extreme prejudice….in this FREE country…FREE from religious bias…..right.
Bob, you have it all. All your friends believe like you….they hold ALL the public offices.. they think like you…but… that’s not enough…is it Bob. You now have to prevent you enemy from their tiny victory in defense of separation of church and state.
You go Bob…you want it all……by god…your like minded audience is applauding you as we speak.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

December 8th, 2010
9:08 am

Dear J @ 9:04, I acknowledge that there are intolerant and narrow-minded souls among believers – we are human too. I believe the whelming majority of believers subscribe to the same view I authored @ 8:05.

The Taliban is coming

December 8th, 2010
9:08 am

My graduation was out on the football field — and all parents could see just fine. It happens in May — you DONT need an “indoor” facility. That way you didn’t offend 50 people just because 2000 wanted to be fundamental control freaks. Some Catholics are very offended at even coming near a Baptist church (and vice versa). How would the Baptists feel if their childs graduation was held at a pagan campground? You would never hear the end of the protests.
I think it is SO funny that the USA is spending TRILLIONS of dollars to help people in Iraq not be subject to forms of Islam they don’t accept or believe —- yet right here in the USA, we can’t even make that happen for ourselves. Sad.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

December 8th, 2010
9:10 am

Dear Trapped @ 9:08, you err. By allowing the evil government to use a consecrated facility for a mere financial compensation, instead of requiring a doctrinal conversion, it is the church that subsidizes the government.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

December 8th, 2010
9:12 am

Dear Taliban @ 9:08. “How would the Baptists feel if their childs graduation was held at a pagan campground?” You miss the obvious – those same Baptists are sending their child, daily, to a pagan campground for instruction; otherwise they would not be at the graduation ceremony.

J

December 8th, 2010
9:13 am

Dear Ragnar, your believe while admirable is completely naive, and as a NON christian I speak from experience, additionally your argument at Trapped is a moot point, as his suggestion is to use the schools football field (which is also where my graduation ceremony was held) which I believe would cost the school system exactly NOTHING, since they already own that facility, doesn’t that make more sense?

The Taliban is coming

December 8th, 2010
9:14 am

If all that matters about separating religion from government control is “the overwhelming majority”, then why in the heck did the USA decide that Afghanistan needs to dump that idea by sending in the armies??? I think Osama bin Laden put a spell on people in America……and now is sitting back in his enclave, watching his enemies — the USA — give up the freedoms their own grandfathers used to boast about, and instead, are turning into religious fundamentalist repressors themselves. We aren’t so smart afterall, are we?

Ragnar Danneskjöld

December 8th, 2010
9:18 am

Dear J @ 9:13, I suppose we will have to agree to disagree on the character of believers. We come from such different perspectives, and perhaps suffer different life experiences. I believe that “believers” are persecuted by a government that would require “believers” to subordinate their beliefs to the will of the government, under threat of physical and financial retribution. You believe that “believers” condemn nonbelievers with some magic power.

The Taliban is coming

December 8th, 2010
9:19 am

Ragnar,
You may want to research what “pagan” means. IT’s an actual religion adapated from some Christian teachings, and I will guarantee there is NO SUCH THING being taught in public schools — thanks to our “separation of church and state”. My son attends public schools and was recently asked to read the Bible if he wants to get his IB diploma. He also was asked to read many other religious books —- that way he won’t one day come on public message boards and try to pursuade people using incorrect information. That’s all thanks to his PUBLIC education.

Rich

December 8th, 2010
9:29 am

just a quick follow up for those who don’t know. This church is a very nice and modern building. I attended a few services there with an ex-roommate and the decor is very much in line with any state of the art college auditorium or lecture hall. Nothing there should offend anyone. The people are friendly and didn’t try to persuade me into joining anything. The design is very handicapped friendly which should be a big plus as some of those who would like to see the graduation ceremony are getting along in age and have some mobility issues. This is probably on of the best available choices and the cost makes it a great deal. Don’t spoil what is supposed to be a celebration, offer a better solution or do what a civilized and mature individual is supposed to do and let the kids enjoy a fun and happy day.

Trapped in a Red state

December 8th, 2010
9:34 am

Rangar

God, Please deliver us from your followers.
So, you view this as a nonbeliever’s attempt to “once again” control YOUR LIFE !!!
Try, if you can, to imagine the world as a non protestant, much less non believer living here in Ga.

Bob

December 8th, 2010
10:00 am

I say rent out a more expensive secular venue. Let the parents of the whiners pay the differance. And pay by check so you don’r have to be offended by the “in god we trust” thing on our money. It’s to bad a lib judge came up with that made up separation thing, our founders would not have agreed.