Eastern Carver County students are urging the district to relocate their graduation ceremonies from a Christian church, claiming it has a “long history” of making “derogatory” statements “against the LGBTQ+ community.”
“Grace Church has a long history of making derogatory, public statements against the LGBTQ+ community. Further, they do not support divorce even in situations of domestic violence. As a community of students and parents who represent a wide variety of marginalized identities, we must change this venue,” Eli Frost, a high school student, wrote in the petition.
For the past 15 years, Chaska and Chanhassen High School graduates have gathered at Grace Church in Eden Prairie to commemorate their achievements. Now, some students want the ceremony moved, saying failing to do so would “allow the normalization of discrimination.”
The petition does not elaborate on the church’s “derogatory statements.” Grace Church said in a statement to Fox 9 that, as a Christian church, it affirms the “teaching of the Bible regarding gender, marriage, and divorce.”
“Continuing to have students have to choose whether or not to attend their graduation ceremony in a place that condemns their identity does not uphold the anti-discrimation [sic] policy that Eastern Carver County Schools stands by,” the petition argues.
The petitioners believe it is crucial for Eastern Carver County Schools to advocate on behalf of all students and ensure that the venue for this milestone “accepts everyone for who they are.”
The petition has received fewer than 500 signatures over the last month, but the district told Alpha News that it is continuing to “look at other options” for the June 9 ceremonies, noting that there is “no perfect solution.”
“The district and board care deeply about the experience of every one of our students, and we have been listening closely to the concerns raised by students and community members about our graduation venue. I want to be clear that the use of the Grace facility in no way implies endorsement or support of their beliefs, and we take great pains to make sure religious symbols are not present as part of the ceremony,” said Celi Haga, director of communications and community relations.
“In every situation there are going to be students and families impacted by the graduation site location, so we continue to try to evaluate based on the needs of all the students we serve while being fiscally responsible,” she added.
Haga did not state if the ceremony will be moved for this year’s graduation.
Grace Church took issue with the implication that “we support or somehow affirm domestic violence,” calling this “false and categorically untrue.”
“We have vital ministries trying to protect women and children while advocating for their well-being and safety. Unfortunately, misunderstandings have led to an unfounded decision to protest a graduation ceremony at Grace Church,” the church said. “At Grace Church, we welcome conversations clarifying our position and our heart for the community. We believe talking to each other is a better strategy than canceling one another.”