Church + State + Plucky Kids = Lawsuit!

Several random thoughtsas the kids at Elmbrook High School file suitagainst the school district for holding graduation in a mega-church:

– I grew up around that area and found that most of these kids would piss and moan about anything, so it comes as no surprise to me this is going on. Apparently being rich is a major pain in the ass, or so I’m told on the new 90210…

– Did I miss the part where the students are forced into a prayer huddle before they graduate? Is there an “Our Father” requirement before the kid can get a diploma? In one way, I’m thinking, it’s just a damned building.

– Still, as much as I dislike this suit, I wonder how the good Christian folks would feel if they moved the ceremony toAnton LaVey’s place because it was available, spacious and they served refreshments for free after the ceremony. (“Hey, it’s just a giant pentagram with a goat’s head on it hanging on the wall over the dais. It’s not like we’re making you give a blood sacrifice before you can graduate.”) Let’s hope that happens sometime soon just to watch the media frenzy on this.

– I went to a Catholic school and we graduated our class in a large, public arena. I did not some how feel cheated because I couldn’t be given my diploma under a giant cross. Far fewer people tend to grouse about the separation of church and state when it’s the other way around and the church is paying for the space.

– If these people feel uncomfortable being in a church because “Elmbrook Church teaches that persons who do not subscribe to the church’s Christian beliefs will suffer torment in hell for all eternity,” they should feel comforted by the fact that the people who go to this mega-church believe that God is everywhere and just as likely to smite them for being infidels if they are at the Dairy Queen across town as they are in the heart of the church.

9 thoughts on “Church + State + Plucky Kids = Lawsuit!

  1. Elspeth R says:

    Was there no other venue available? If it’s a Public School (that is, not a parochial set-up, but one provided by our government), I can see why there’s the brou-ha-ha.
    It would be one thing if the kids were being petulant over a testing venue to delay the inevitable. This is their graduation – they want to graduate, just not in a religious building. More power to ’em!
    Random thought on the “holier than thou” folks: I have an overbearingly devout Catholic cousin* who, upon our holding our Great Aunt’s memorial service in the Catholic Church the late Aunt went to on occassion, was appalled when I helped carry the large rosary up to the dais to be put on the table with the urn of my Great Aunt’s ashes…since she knew I was not only not Catholic, but a Witch. She truly expected me to be struck down and burned on the spot by a bolt from above… Um, sorry, I don’t subscribe to that stuff, however, my Pagan nature did NOT stop me from handling my Great Aunt’s religious items with respect. I can, and have been in many a Christian church of varying stripe and have yet to burst into flames. Somehow I expect the folks that are there for the networking not the message to be struck first. At least I’m honestly not Christian. I respect the teachings of Jesus – it’s all of the hate and misogyny that I can’t stand – generally from the masses that are eager to eat up the poison pablum of power-grabbing preachers. If I want a floor show – I’ll go to a dinner theater. If I want religion, I’ll go into the forest or garden.
    *she has even already planned to send her daughter to a convent to become a nun…that was decided when the wee one wasn’t even 4 years old. Somehow, I am sure the daughter will make sure that doesn’t happen, as she’s a bit of a hellion already at 7 (and no, she doesn’t know about their plans).
    Elspeth

  2. dr2chase says:

    Yeah, but to a certain extent, buildings is buildings. When my oldest was playing viola, we held recitals in churches, not for religious purposes, but because churches tend to have big spaces with good acoustics and a handy piano.
    Just holding a graduation in a church does not sound like a poster child for establishment of religion. If it happened that the town held ALL of its big events in the church (voting, town meetings, etc), then things start to get a little more iffy.

  3. Oh, I think the suburb of Milwaukee could find dozens of other locations to hold the graduation ceremony. Having some experience with this, I bet the rent on the church building for the day was cheaper than other commercial or academic venues.

  4. leinie says:

    This is in Milwaukee? They don’t have any buildings on campus they can use? I bet the FFRF is ALL over this one.
    There is a state university in my hometown, and that’s where graduation took place – in the basketball arena, I think it was. Big space, public school graduation in public education facility.
    I get the “building is a building” thing, but as a non Christian, I’d want a different venue too – why should I have one of the milestones of my life happening under depictions of torture – and not just any torture, but a celebrated torture?
    Where is the welcome for the non Christian kids – this kind of thing is just another way to try to make the non majority religion be reminded of minority status.

  5. Doc says:

    This is one of those where I probably didn’t make my position well enough. I agree with all of you. I can see the “building is a building” thing but I can honestly say I understand the general discomfort associated with being forced to go into some place that holds a strong belief in something that you don’t believe in. (a la the LaVey reference)
    Part of me blames this on the school for not seeing this coming. (I spent several years covering stuff in Madison and had a pretty good idea as to when I needed to call Anne Gaylor or Annie Gaylor from the FFRF; I can’t believe the school couldn’t figure this out.) Part of me blames this on our society. We can’t just have a normal discussion on anything any more (present Blog “Bleepers” excluded) before someone grabs for the law. It’s like trying to take out a fly with a howitzer. I can’t find out how much of an effort the nine Does put into getting this moved by other means before they had to sue. Part of me blames it on the other kids’ parents for taking the “I don’t see what’s wrong with graduating our kids in a church” attitude that of course further marginalizes the kids and their parents who DO see something wrong with it. In making statements like that, we cast those who disagree into the role of being viewed as abnormal. That’s not right either.
    In the end, it’s one of those stories that makes me shake my head. Maybe that’s why I ditched the post I was working on to put this up. Thanks for the comments. They always make me think.
    Doc

  6. mirele says:

    Seriously, a state ceremony (graduation) should not be held in a secular location (a megachurch). It doesn’t matter that it’s the largest place. It’s not the most suitable place.
    Some religions have restrictions upon their practitioners; they are not permitted to go into other places of worship. I know of some old-style Catholics who wouldn’t think of going into a Protestant church, same with some Muslims. They think that they’re dishonoring God by going into a place of worship that they believe their god does not recognize. Plus, the fact that the church believes it can’t cover up its mondo sized cross (I don’t think Jesus was crucified on one that size) shows that THEY at least see it as a potential proselytising moment.
    However, just because your high school moves your massive graduation ceremony off to the basketball stadium at the university 30 miles away does not mean that you’ll be exempt from religious speechifying. I distinctly remember the sermonette the salutorian gave at my graduation in 1978 and I could just FEEL my Jewish classmates squirming in their chairs.

  7. Aaaargh says:

    I dunno. Let’s see if there’s an outcry if we move graduation to a mosque.

  8. Interrobang says:

    I was one of those students squirming in their chairs at a graduation with a sermonette by the valedictorian, and I agree with both parts of the complaint:
    a) public, non-religious school functions should not be held in churches;
    b) any attempt at violating a) should be met with a lawsuit.
    I think the lawsuits for these sorts of things are justified, because dammit, there are entirely too many Christians out there who figure that since they’re the hegemonic majority and have all the privilege, they can do whatever they damn well want, and to hell with what the law says; and further, since there are too many areas entirely dominated by Christians who refuse to either obey the law or take consideration of religious minorities, it’s incumbent on objectors todemand their rights under the law. I don’t think that people get rights from a solid majority — even ones they’re legally entitled to — byasking nicely. I think that’s especially true when the majority in question has a tendency to see any attempt to live outside the dictates of the majority custom to be anattack (e.g. that not saying “Merry Christmas” is anti-Christian “religious persecution”). You don’tcajole in that situation, you break out the howitzer.

  9. soullite says:

    Christians and Catholics in this country are simply very clueless. They have no idea what it’s like living in this country if you’re not one of them. They have no idea what it’s like to be forced (and despite what the supreme court says, it’s still enforced in most districts) to pledge to a god they don’t believe in every morning. They don’t know what it’s like to have their holidays laughed at or told they aren’t real. They don’t knwo what it’s like to get the shit kicked out of them for not believing. They have never had to face the contempt your average american shows for you when they find out you don’t believe. They are so privileged that they think that justice is them getting to piss all over everyone else.

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