Late last month, the Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists (MACRA) learned that Montcalm Community College was planning a special lunch just for local pastors. It was even advertised on the school’s website:
This wasn’t an outside group using the school’s space. This was a school-sponsored event organized by an employee and at which the school’s president Bob Ferrentino was scheduled to speak.
MACRA leader Mitch Kahle soon sent Ferrentino a letter calling for a stop to the event.
As a public taxpayer-funded community college, MCC and its employees in their official capacities, including [event organizer] Lisa Lund and you, are prohibited from engaging in activities that advance religion generally over non-religion, promote one religion specifically over others, serve a principally religious purpose, and/or involve excessive government entanglement with religion…
MCC is a public institution of higher learning and knowledge — not a church of Christian ideology. Public tax dollars, resources, and employees, may not be used to fund, organize, support, coordinate, promote, or hold religious activities or events.
Within hours of receiving that letter, the school removed the news release from its website and said the event would be cancelled. Though according to a FOIA request filed by Kahle, this event had been going on for about 20 years until he was able to step in.
A local news article about the event says it’s been going on for only two years, but the point is still the same: Because a local atheist activist stepped in, the school was spared a potential lawsuit. Conservative Christians in the area will surely find reason to complain over the cancellation of a taxpayer-funded luncheon for religious leaders, but it’s the right move all around.
Kahle, who also drew attention recently to a superintendent promoting religion in a local newspaper column, deserves credit for defending the wall of separation between church and state.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)