Faith at Altitude

Religion and spirituality in the shadow of Pikes Peak

Friday, March 31, 2006

Grads and God

In The Gazette's Letters to the Editor section Wednesday, a letter from Russell Flora took Pikes Peak Community College to task for holding its graduation ceremonies in a "worship center" -- New Life Church's mammoth 7,500-seat auditorium.

"Your public community college is having its graduation in a church," Flora wrote. "What happened to separation of church and state? Does this not seem odd at best, borderline illegal, morally wrong and unethical?"

I checked in with New Life just to see what the deal was.

Apparently this'll be the second year PPCC will hold graduation at New Life, and the church isn't charging the college for its use: It's part of an agreement wherein the church can use the parking lot of PPCC's nearby Rampart Range campus for overflow parking on Sunday mornings. New Life will provide some ancillary support for the graduation -- janitorial services, I suppose -- but will be otherwise uninvolved in the ceremony.

New Life officials say other secular groups have used their facilities: Liberty High School holds its advanced placements tests in New Life Buildings; Trout Fishing in America apparently held some sort of event there (it's unknown whether New Life's baptismal was used); there was recently an Anti-terrorism Seminar there, as well.

"We built it (the auditorium) to be multifunctional," said Carolyn Haggard of New Life. The auditorium itself doesn't have any religious symbolism that I've seen -- no stained glass, no pews, not even a pulpit. In fact, they'd like their buildings to be utilized by the community perhaps even more than they are now.

Churches have almost always been used for public and social gatherings: European cathedrals weren't just used Sunday mornings. They were open for meetings, markets and all sorts of pretty diverse uses. The reverse is true, too: Many local schools house Sunday morning church services.


Blogger Gregory said...

When prayers are included in the graduation ceremony, it becomes an issue of church versus state. Does this cater to the non-christian graduates in the audience? It's appauling, yet not surprising for Colorado Springs.

11:53 PM  

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