Magazine article Church & State

AU Tells Ohio Charter School Not to Hold Graduation in Controversial Church

Magazine article Church & State

AU Tells Ohio Charter School Not to Hold Graduation in Controversial Church

Article excerpt

Americans United has asked a publicly funded Ohio charter school not to hold its graduation ceremony in a church ran by a fiercely anti-gay pastor.

Ohio Virtual Academy in Toledo plans to hold its graduation June 7 at World Harvest Church (WHC), even though the church displays a giant cross hanging from its ceiling and is staunchly against gay rights.

As the letter noted, WHC is run by the Rev. Rod Parsley. Parsley is an aspiring Religious Right leader who has made a number of homophobic statements in his writings and speeches, including repeating long-discredited, hateful notions about LGBT people.

In his 2005 book Silent No More, Parsley asserted that gays engage in activities such as "bestiality ... orgies, large numbers of sexual partners, deliberate infection of others, cheating in marriage, obscene phone calls, criminality, shoplifting, and tax cheating."

Americans United said that holding a school ceremony in such an environment "is, at best, unwelcoming and, at worst, traumatizing" for LGBT students. AU also noted that most of the schools' future graduates would prefer the ceremony be held in a local secular venue.

Officials at the school have vowed not to change the venue. Kyle Wilkinson, the school's principal, told the Toledo Blade that it is "common for public schools to use faith-based facilities for their graduations."

In related news involving religion in public schools:

* An elementary school student in Florida says she was told not to pray by staff at her school, but the school is denying that claim. …

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