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.