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.