ACLU lawsuit may end public school graduations in churches

NEPTUNE - Neptune High School has held graduation ceremonies inside Ocean Grove's Great Auditorium, which is owned by a Methodist group for the past 60 years, but a lawsuit may put a halt to the annual tradition.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says the ceremonies are unconstitutional, opening up the debate over the separation of church and state. The ACLU received a complaint from a grandmother of a graduate last year who said the Christian tone there made her feel uncomfortable. The ACLU says "It gives the impression that there are certain people who are insiders and others who are outsiders."

The superintendent points out the building is a national historic site where several presidents and most New Jersey governors have spoken. The state PBA also holds an annual blue Mass inside.

The ACLU is asking that the cross located outside of the building be covered. The school district says it has already made changes to the program, including eliminating the student-led convocation and the singing of a Christian hymn. It says that covering the cross is impossible.

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