COLUMBUS, OH—Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio sent a letter to Woodward Park Middle School officials requesting that they cease plans to allow three local ministers on to school grounds on Sunday, August 27 to perform a religious ceremony and bless the building. In its letter to the administration, the ACLU of Ohio cautioned the school that such a ceremony may be seen as favoritism to a particular religion and that the school would be required to allow any other group access to perform ceremonies at the school.
“Although church and school officials may have good intentions when planning ceremonies such as this, the effect is that it appears the school is favoring one religion over another,” said ACLU of Ohio Litigation Coordinator Gary Daniels.
Daniels continued, “Public schools should be a place where religion remains neutral, but this act clearly sends a message that officials are giving preference to a few churches.”
Initially, reports from the school stated that three area ministers would be allowed inside the school to bless classrooms, but was subsequently changed to having the ceremony outside on school grounds. Despite the slight change in location, the actions of the school still remain troublesome and possibly illegal.
The ACLU of Ohio also warned officials that continuing with such a ceremony would require the school to allow other groups or individuals equal access to the building for similar ceremonies, no matter how controversial or unpopular the group may be.
“Allowing ministers to bless a public building will open a Pandora’s box of other groups that will want to come in and perform similar ceremonies,” Daniels added. “The best course of action is for the school to prevent the ceremony from taking place on its grounds and protect the school from unnecessarily supporting one religion over another.”