From Libby Conn
In case you missed it, you can listen to this morning’s vigorous debate on our new website—-www.yourpublicmedia.org.
A quick synopsis: When Enfield seniors graduate next month, they’ll receive their high school diplomas inside the First Cathedral Church in Bloomfield.
The ACLU says the practice violates the constitutional rights of students and their parents by “coercing them to receive the overwhelming religious message of the church” and “communicating a message of governmental favoritism” of Christianity. They say the practice also funnels more than $16,000 of taxpayer money to a tax-exempt religious organization.
The Board of Education, headed by Pastor Greg Stokes, says the church is the most affordable option that accommodates the district’s needs. The intent is to be practical, not to promote religion. In January, the Board voted to move the ceremonies to school grounds, but then reversed its decision last month.
The ACLU says this reversal was a result of intense lobbying on the part of The Family Institute of Connecticut, a conservative political organization headed by Peter Wolfgang. Wolfgang, for his part, takes a healthy amount of credit for the Board’s decision to return to Cathedral.
The question will ultimately be settled in federal court because the ACLU is suing Enfield Public Schools. (You can read the complaint here.)
The American Center for Law and Justice will represent the Enfield School District, pro bono.
We’ve gotten a ton of comments—a sample:
“Today’s show on holding a graduation in a church made me chuckle, having recently attended a meeting of the Connecticut Valley Atheists. I wonder – if the Connecticut Valley Atheists had a large building, with a big sign out front that said “There is no God – just be good.” — would we even be having this conversation? Or would the idea of using such a facility simply have been rejected out of hand?”-Randy
1. If the town paid zero dollars for the use of the building use, would that be okay? No tax dollars for “mission” work?2. Would your guest be standing in front of the doors of this church following a natural disaster, where it would be used as a service center (fresh water, health kits, medical tents — presumably all paid for with tax dollars)?I’m a progressive nut job myself, but this kind of thing is just stupid. Get the place of worship to agree that a “donation” to Foodshare in lieu of fees is sufficient. Get a speaker to respectfully, but clearly, provide perspective on Church vs. State – and how this is a wonderful partnership for the good of the community.Gee whiz.–Knut
If people want to come together, they will never survive each other unless they tolerate each other’s beliefs. Tolerating something is not the same as wholeheartedly accepting it. Would the plaintiffs refuse to attend a friend’s wedding because it was held in a religious building they wouldn’t feel comfortable in? They’re going to miss quite a few weddings.
–Hal and Kate
As high school students graduate and enter the “adult” world, it is a good time for them to learn that not all situations in life will allow you to stay in your comfort zone. This is true in this circumstance for the protesting students. This is an unfortunate example of a larger issue today in our society.
Why do people that do not subscribe to a certain religion or philosophy bristle at the idea of being exposed to that group or their infrastructure? What kind of broad-thinking society are we impeding by being offended by even being around a religious site that is not of our own belief? I would be ashamed if I walked into a mosque or synagogue and immediately felt offended. Graduation or not – life is not alway comfortable, nor fair. Suck it up and work within the limitations faced by the Board of Education. Life is all about compromises.
–Jonathan in New Haven
Thanks for listening and sending us your thoughts.