(JTA) — The Jewish school board president in a Pennsylvania town that has canceled the invocation at its high school commencement following controversial remarks by a student at last year’s ceremony said he is not “anti-Christian.”
Rick Rabinowitz was the first to raise objections with the Pottsgrove school administration following the 2015 ceremony in which the student invoked the name of Jesus Christ and called everyone in the audience sinners, singling out non-Christians, the local newspaper The Mercury reported.
Amid the controversy, which reportedly included an emotional debate on Facebook, a public school board meeting to discuss the issue is scheduled for Tuesday at the high school.
Telling The Mercury he is not anti-Christian, Rabinowitz noted that he is married to a Catholic woman and celebrates Christian holidays with his family, including Christmas.
He told the local CBS affiliate, “Everybody should be afforded the opportunity to have the best possible graduation, without offense.”
The decision on canceling the invocation at the June 15 commencement reportedly was made last summer but was not made public until late last month.
The district’s attorney has determined that an invocation at the graduation violates the Constitution’s establishment clause. Marc Davis in his legal brief cited the U.S. Supreme Court and the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, the highest federal appellate court governing Pennsylvania.
An invocation has been held at the district’s graduations for over 20 years, though Pottsgrove has no official policy regarding invocation and benediction at graduation, according to reports.
Some residents of Pottsgrove, which has a population of about 3,200, have suggested that students be allowed to decide whether to have an invocation.
Meanwhile, students have organized a baccalaureate ceremony for those who want to have prayer as part of their graduation activities, to be held two days before the graduation ceremony.