RPS H.S. Graduation in Church

By: Tina Stein
By: Tina Stein

ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Icehogs emblems and local advertising typically line the walls of Rockford Schools' graduations. But for Auburn's commencement ceremony this year, there will the crucifix.

"You're going to cater to everybody, then you need to think about everybody's religious beliefs, not just one persons," says Auburn H.S. parent Renee Russell.

On June first, Auburn grads will get their diplomas inside Rockford First, a church on the city's east side.

"I could have graduated early but I chose to stay here my fourth year so I could walk across the stage not a platform. I wanted to graduate in the Metrocentre where my whole family could be there," says Auburn H.S. Taila Wolfe.

Church spokespeople say they're not charging District 205 and there are no plans to cover christian symbols.

"Public schools should not hold ceremonies in houses of worship because doing so tends to endorse religion generally and the chosen church in particular," says A.C.L.U. Spokesperson Ed Yohnka.

Hosting graduation at the Metrocentre costs about five-thousand dollars per school.

In an October email obtained by 23 News, RPS Communications Officer Mark Bonne told arena staff they're forgoing a contract to save money.

"You're going to have people who are not willing to go there. So then their children are not going to go through the entire graduation ceremony. Something they worked for four years to do and then they're going to be cut out of it because it's in a church, that's not fair to everybody," says Russell.

Metrocentre spokespeople say they are willing to negotiate to keep 205's business. But haven't heard anything more beyond the email.

Numerous messages left for Mark Bonne were not returned. This issue has come up several times across the country. Most recently in Connecticut a judge ruled having graduation in a church violates the constitution.


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  • by tom Location: machesney on Jan 31, 2011 at 07:47 AM
    I bet the ACLU would not have a problem if they held the graduation at the new mosque they just built. We cannot celebrate Halloween at school because it offends people so they got rid of it,we cant celebrate christmas at school because it offends some people,or easter. What if my son or daughter is an ATHIEST do they have a special place to graduate? I would not even want them in a place of worship,and I bet this church celebrated Christmas. So take all of the American traditions out of the schools then graduate in a place that celebrates god. Would this not make some kids feel uncomfortable,it would not be fair,some kids could start sweating. You cannot force a kid to graduate in a place that is uncomfortable for them,they will have to have seperate places,for each dif kid and there beliefs. And the parents,wow is this not just a slap in the face,you will have to look at a cross on the wall,this could cause some medical problems being forced to do this. This is an outrage.
  • by tom Location: machesney on Jan 31, 2011 at 07:17 AM
    I dont know what sheffield makes,but I do know its alot,So say every graduation costs 5000 dollars at metro center,she personally if she cared could take the money out of her pay to pay for this and still have tons of money too live on. Also they have the people so messed up and confused,they are having it at a church,who gives a crap but dont you think they knew this would cause problems with the people accepting this. It was done on purpose,they want the people to be confused. This story actually take away from the story of what sheffield is trying to do with the cuts. Its called doing something in one hand,while people are not watching the other hand. In school you cant say the pledge of alligence anymore or anything with jesus in it,but we are willing to have our graduation in a house of god,is that not offending anyone. Ban god from schools then graduate from a house of god,does this make any sense? NO. Thats just it they dont want to make any sense,then the people would understand
  • by dan Location: rockford on Jan 28, 2011 at 05:47 PM
    why not have it some where bigger that is run by local goverment.im sure some building just is stilling empty somewhere that can handle the size of the class and all their family.
  • by Auburn parent Location: Rockford on Jan 28, 2011 at 02:18 PM
    I think it is a great idea to have the graduation ceremony somewhere else if it will save money. But if it is true that we are limited to a certain number of guests that is wrong. At this stage of the game why wasn't this presented before graduation announcements were ordered so we could of planned accordingly. I don't think it is fair that parents are just finding out about this we should of been able to have some form of input. This is a joyous occassion for our seniors that they have planned for, for years to be able to share with their families who now probably won't even be able to come. They've been talking about money woes forever did they just realize that this was the only way to save money.
  • by ana Location: rfd on Jan 28, 2011 at 01:51 PM
    doesn't matter if it has a cross or no cross it's still God house. And why should I have to pay $25.00 to watch a graduation when I pay tax dollars.
  • by Nan Location: Rockford on Jan 28, 2011 at 12:38 PM
    I think this is wonderful. It is a waste of taxpayers funds to pay for a hall when the church offers it for free--and the church is paying the utilities. THe "the separation of church and state is a myth. Check it out on wallbuilders.com Why would anyone object to churches helping out. They sure don't mind their free food, help in crisis, etc.How can the church force anything on anyone...it cannot be done. It is a kindness offered to the community. Kindness is a "good thing". RFC is probably one of the few facilities large enough to hold that size of an event. I do hope people will accept this offer with graciousness and gratitude that the broke school district will save money that they don't have!!
  • by joe Location: smith on Jan 28, 2011 at 12:07 PM
    for those of you unfamiliar with Rockford First there is NO cross or Crucifix either on the front of the main sanctuary building or inside the sanctuary. It's very simply a 5,000 seat auditorium with probably the largest stage in Rockford.
  • by ana Location: rfd on Jan 28, 2011 at 11:36 AM
    you can't pray in school and you can't say the pledge of allegiance in school because if has the word "GOD" in it but you can graduate from a church.. HMM where the logic here.
  • by Joe Location: machesney on Jan 28, 2011 at 09:32 AM
    They are holding ALL high school graduations there. This is just SO SO SO WRONG!!!!!
  • by Cindy Location: Rockford on Jan 28, 2011 at 09:30 AM
    Why can't each school have the graduation in there gym or auditorium? That's how it was when I graduated high school out in the suburbs. We had over 600 graduates, it seemed to work out just fine.
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