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By Charles Layton

The Neptune Township Committee approved a resolution Monday night supporting continued use of Ocean Grove’s Great Auditorium for high school graduation. Mayor Kevin McMillan said he “didn’t feel the students should be deprived of it. They’ve worked hard.”

The American Civil Liberties Union is threatening to sue over the use of a place of worship for a public school graduation. The Neptune Board of Education has agreed to eliminate all religious content from the program, including an invocation and the playing of religious music, but the two sides are at an impasse over the presence of certain Christian symbols in and about the building, including the large white cross in front. The Camp Meeting Association, which owns the building, has refused the ACLU’s request that those symbols be covered over during the ceremony.

Committeeman Randy Bishop said, “The students themselves are quite upset about not being able to graduate there.”

As of now, it remains unclear whether the ACLU will follow through with its threat to try to block the use of the Auditorium in court. In effect, the two sides appear frozen in a game of chicken. Graduation is scheduled for June 17.

Bishop said there is no other venue available that is anywhere near as good as the Auditorium. It has been the site of Neptune graduation ceremonies for at least seven decades.

Committeeman Eric Houghtaling said he had attended several non-religious events in the Auditorium, including his own high school graduation, and had never paid much attention to the religious signs in the building. “At my graduation all I remember is the American flag” that lights up behind the stage.

For a more detailed account of the dispute, go here.

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