Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Holding Graduation In A Church

I've not put a lot of thought into this issue because, to be honest, the thought of holding graduation in a church never really occurred to me. I find my self agreeing with the author of this piece, though, but for somewhat different reasons:

I read this weekend of an attempt by the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State to induce the Cherokee County Board of Education to forgo holding high school graduation ceremonies in a local church. This apparently is not the first time the organization has contacted the Cherokee board. Should the Board not give in to this pressure, a lawsuit could be in the offing...

For the past few election cycles, I have cast my vote in a church, in which no effort has been made to conceal the nature of the building that houses the voting booths. To be sure, I’ve never had to go into the sanctuary to vote; it’s usually the fellowship hall or gym, but I do recall a time or two when election officials have set up shop in the narthex. Had I chosen to, I would have a full view of all the imagery of the sanctuary.

Should Americans United (or the ACLU) have filed suit on my behalf? Should they have sought to force the county to absorb higher costs or greater inconvenience by conducting all voting in public buildings like schools?

Without having spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about it, here's the conclusion I've jumped to: a building is a building. If the owners of the building don't put religious or "outside of reasonable community standards" requirements on the users, what's the problem? For example, if the church insisted that everyone remove their headgear upon entering the building, that would seem not "outside of reasonable community standards" to me; on the other hand, if they asked that men and women remain separated, or asked that people remove their shoes upon entering, or asked that people wear specific types of clothing before entering, such requests would be so far outside the mainstream that the use of the building would be contingent on acknowledging and practicing the religious requirements of the owners, and would be out of bounds.

If the big crucifix behind the altar is too much for some people to stand, put a big curtain up. Same with the iconography in any other religious building. I'm not saying that every little thing must be covered, but major pieces--especially ones that are in the field of view while watching the ceremony at hand--could be a "distraction" and should just be blocked.

The problem, of course, is that all the words I've used above are subject to interpretation. I guess the devil is in the details.

Get the joke? Sometimes I slay myself.


Anonymous said...

How to interpret this. Imagine if it was a graduation in a Mosque. Then imagine the outrage that would follow from Christians.

Darren said...

Ah, young padawan, did you *not* notice the religious strictures I listed at the end? If a mosque fell afoul of those strictures it *couldn't* be used. Of course I foresaw your argument.

Christians go in mosques all the time, usually as tourists. An added benefit of using a mosque would be that, if I understand the rules correctly, there wouldn't be a lot of religious iconography that would need to be covered.

Probably wouldn't be a lot of benches for the people to sit on, either.

JoeP said...

As an active Christian, I'd welcome the use of a mosque for graduation. As long as no overt attempts at conversion or "come to our house of worship". I'd love to have a reason to enter a mosque in a setting where I didn't feel out of place, or not sure what to do when. Would the Muslim community welcome me???

Anonymous said...

But imagine if school children were expected to attend a mosque to graduate from school. Not as tourists, but as part of their actual graduation from schoo,.

Anonymous said...

In a mosque there would be *NO* religious iconography :-)

-Mark Roulo

Doug said...

If you read the article, you would see that the students are not "attending church" nor would they "attend mosque". They would be holding a ceremony to celebrate the end of their High School Years. Not only that, but attendance at graduation is not mandatory to receive a diploma. How much do you actually remember of your HS Commencement ceremony? Me, about 0.05% - The part where I threw my cap about 2 feet above my head so I could catch it. If it had been in a church or mosque, I would probably remember 0.1%, but wouldn't have been able to throw the cap, I am guessing.

Ellen K said...

In small communities, the local church may be the only large structure in town other than the high school gym. While it wouldn't be right to turn it into a religious services, a building is a building and holding graduation in a church is not a church service. I really wish these cranks would start worrying about real problems in our nation.