A New Jersey high school with a 70-year tradition of hosting graduation ceremonies in a historic auditorium is standing firm against legal threats from the American Civil Liberties Union, which claims the event violates the separation of church and state because of the Christian-owned site’s religious displays.
For generations, graduates of Neptune High School have walked down the aisle of the Great Auditorium in Ocean Grove, where the impressive 6,500-seat venue dominates the landscape of one of the areas most historic beach towns. Built in 1894, the auditorium is owned and operated by the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, a Methodist group that owns not just the building, but all of the land beneath every home and structure in town.
The ACLU of New Jersey threatened legal action against the Neptune school district after an attendee at last years graduation ceremony took offense to the buildings religious symbols and Christian-based references — among them a 20-foot white cross above the auditoriums entrance. The ACLU asked the school to remove or cover up the cross and three other religious signs, arguing their visibility during a public school event is a First Amendment violation.