Featured Article

Graduations Moved Out of Megachurch
Article Audio

1:28 minutes (0.7 MB)
Download this Article
Share this Content

After weeks of contentious debate, five Connecticut high schools will move their graduation ceremonies out of a local Christian church. WNPR’s Diane Orson reports.

Windsor, South Windsor, East Hartford and Enrico Fermi High Schools, as well as the Metropolitan Learning Center Magnet School had been holding graduation ceremonies at “The First Cathedral” in Bloomfield.  It’s a 120,000 square foot megachurch with religious iconography, including five large Christian crosses, a fountain in the shape of a cross, banners that read “Jesus Christ is Lord” and  television screens that display the message “This is God’s House Where Jesus Christ is Lord”.  The American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State warned the school districts to move graduation ceremonies to a secular location, or face a possible lawsuit.  Andrew Schneider, Executive Director of CT’s ACLU says all students should feel welcome at their own graduation:

"A ceremony that they work very hard for over the course of 4 years. And certainly one that they are compelled to attend.  Its an event that they should look forward to, not dread because they’re going to be subjected to religious messages that are not their own."

But costs associated with using First Church were significantly lower than renting other large facilities.  Earlier this week a sharply divided Board of Ed in Windsor joined the others in voting in favor of a change in venue.  The districts have not yet announced where their 2010 graduations will be held.

For WNPR, I’m Diane Orson.





 The Enfield Graduation Debate:


I am an evangelical Christian; a Baptist reformed in his theology.  The Scripture clearly teaches there is but one church purchased by the propitiatory and substitutionary blood sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross.  The church is never to be confused with a building or edifice.  Rather, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ is a spiritual body (group) that is made-up of living people (called saints) who, by faith, believe the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  While congregations (local assemblies) strive to obtain their own permanent building, not all do.  The take home message is that not until the local believers actual enter the edifice, for any aspect of worship, there is nothing spiritually significant about the building nor is it to be considered sacred.  It is not the building that is holy!   Rather, it is the people who are made to be in union with the Lord Jesus Christ that are holy.  When they come together to worship the Living God then the building they occupy becomes holy, or set apart for worship.  The building could be a conventional church structure however; it could be a tent, a residential house, a storefront, a basement, or an open field.  Unfortunately, a scriptural as well as accurate assessment concerning the New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is often eclipsed by unscriptural views that traditionally attribute or assign the quality or distinction of being “holy” or “sacred” to inanimate objects such as buildings, statutes, clothing etc.   Religions that assign holy or sacred distinction to structure generally adorn and embellish the edifice with human invention adorning the structure to enhance its character.  The theologically reformed view rejects this based upon what the Scripture teach.  So, the building occupied by my home church can be used for any type of public function, and it has in the passed.   For the purpose of our discussion, it is an auditorium.  The pre-supposition in design ultimately determines the structure design, and quite possibly multi-purpose use.  Some person stated that the structure has seating capacity, big projection screens, ease of access to all seating, free and abundant parking, and a 360-degree view.  These are impressive as well as attractive features to base a decision upon.  In the case of the 1st Cathedral Church of Bloomfield, the architect obviously incorporated all these convincing elements in the design of the structure.   Perhaps the church board, in planning out the structure, built-in the possibility of utilizing it as a for-hire public convention or auditorium center?  Hence, if 479 out of 481 students have absolutely no issue using it as an auditorium for their graduation then, I believe that it is a done deal!  The 2 students who have registered an objection need to carefully consider the motivation for their objections.  Furthermore, the atheist student is exercising his faith to believe that there is no God.  How does he or his parents or the ACLU deal with the matter of our $1 dollar bill, which clearly declares “IN GOD WE TRUST”, or the fact that our paper currency is engraved with mason symbolism?  The Jewish student is exercising his faith to believe in Judaism but believes in God.  Yet, I know of a number of college students, who are Jewish, and attend Catholic colleges.  Furthermore, President Barak Obama, on the national day of prayer, did offer-up a prayer.  Which God was he evoking? The 1st Cathedral Church, having made the decision to contract-out its auditorium for secular use, as a convention hall, is free under our laws to pursue all lawful use of its property under local, state and federal guidelines.