Back to the case at hand: Mahnassi reportedly has a 3.8 GPA and is described as a “star student.” She also claims no religious affiliation and does not think it is appropriate for a public high school, where students have a diversity of backgrounds, to hold its graduation in a location that is so overtly sectarian:
In this case, it’s what she doesn’t believe in and that’s her school’s decision to have their graduation ceremony at Eddie Long’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church.
When her peers ask why, she tells them, “It’s kind of a long story, but I don’t like churches or New Birth so I’m not going.”
The school district issued the following statement to the media:
The school district is holding commencements this year at a number of locations throughout the community, including
school district stadiums and the Georgia Dome. Each year, the school district looks to find spaces big enough to host our largest graduating classes. This year, Southwest DeKalb High School is holding its graduation at a faith-based organization in the community. This is based on a previous agreement that expires this year. We will continue to work to find the best and most appropriate venues to accommodate our students as they celebrate such an important milestone.
The problem here is that it is exceedingly difficult to hold a public school event in a religious facility while keeping the two separate. This is doubly, triply, or even quadruply true when it comes to a controversial establishment like New Birth. The school district’s position seems reasonable. If the concern really is for finding a venue large enough to handle the size of the event, that speaks to a different problem. Communities ought to have a public venue that people can use regardless of faith or lack thereof. A building is not always just a building, as Mahnassi’s mother, Alisha Brown, noted:
[The school] said,
‘Well, it’s just a building,’ and of course I posed the question if it was a Satanist church I’m sure the Christians would be up in arms and say, ‘No, no, no. We’re not going to go there.’ So it’s not a matter of ‘It’s just a building.’ That’s totally not true.
It’s an overblown example, perhaps, but it is still spot-on.
It is important to get this story out there because, although it does not seem to have happened yet, the hate may start piling on. The only other news article I could find on this story was at the Christian Post, and the author and the commenters have been quite restrained (so far). If this turns into something like what Jessica Ahlquist had to deal with, then the internet needs to step up.