First Baptist Church of Woodstock to Hold Graduations despite Lawsuit Threats

In National News on May 25, 2011 at 7:14 pm


More than 2,000 Cherokee County high school graduates will walk across the stage of First Baptist Church of Woodstock to get their diplomas this weekend, despite a potential lawsuit from a civil liberties group over using the religious venue.
Rob Usher, a member of the county’s school board, said there are good reasons to use the 7,500-seat megachurch: It’s cheap. It’s big. It’s air-conditioned.
“It’s a fantastic facility, and the price is awesome,” Usher said.
The church charges about $2,000 per graduation for the five county high schools, and the school system has used it since 2005. Other facilities would cost many times that, and school auditoriums are not big enough to hold all the family and friends that attend, Usher said.
Other metro Atlanta school systems have conducted the ceremonies in churches. DeKalb County has used Bishop Eddie Long’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, and Cobb County is planning to hold four graduations this year at Turner Chapel AME Church in Marietta.
It was Cherokee, though, that was contacted last year by Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The Washington-based group expressed concern about the use of First Baptist for secular, government-sponsored graduations. The church isfilled with symbols of faith, including a large cross above the stage. The organization has sued two other schools in different states over the same issue, losing one suit and winning the other. Cherokee could be next, it hinted.
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