By Art Gallagher
We have been hard on the Neptune Board of Education over their choice to negotiate with the ACLU over the use of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association’s Great Auditorium as the venue for their high school graduation. We would have preferred that Neptune, or anybody, stand up to the over reaching ACLU and their cowardly client. We continue to believe that there are winnable legal arguments, right arguments, that the use of the Great Auditorium is not a violation of the first amendment required separation of church and state.
We don’t agree that covering the religious signs and symbols at the venue protects the rights of someone who does not agree with the message. We don’t believe that if someone feels like an outsider that their rights have been violated. We don’t believe that an ecumenical prayer to begin or end a ceremony or the singing of a hymn makes a civic ceremony a religious service.
We would love to see the ACLU crushed in court or to scamper away at the sight of a leader who would stand up to their bullying tactics.
However, in this case we believe the Neptune Board of Education and Superintendent David Mooij performed admirably for their community. As we were reminded this week with the Abbott Ruling, we have an arrogant, activist and dysfunctional judiciary in this state and country. As strong as their arguments would have been, there is a good chance that the Neptune board could have lost in court and the 70 year tradition of holding their graduation in the Great Auditorium could have been over. Such a result would have been most unfortunate for the community of Neptune. It appears that the Neptune board and Mooij were able to avoid that result. For avoiding that result and preserving the tradition they are to be commended.
We continue to have one major issue with the conduct of the board and administration in Neptune; their policy of protecting the identity of the ACLU’s client. The grumpy granny’s identity should be an easily searchable matter of public record. Her name should have appeared in the minutes of the Neptune Board of Education meeting last July when she first publically raised the issue. Instead, she was identified as “a member of the public.”
The woman who felt like an outsider at her grandchild’s graduation last year and concluded that her rights were violated should have gone to therapy rather than threaten to go to court. She knows she’s an outsider. By hiding her identity with the cooperation of the Neptune board and the ACLU she confirmed that she’s a sneaky outsider without the courage of her convictions to withstand public scorn and scrutiny.
By protecting the woman’s identity the board and administration put their 70 year tradition that means a great deal to the community at risk. Fortunately things worked out for the present and future Neptune graduates. Unfortunately those students also learned a lesson in the power of cowardice and complicity.