The McKinney Independent School District – which includes 20 elementary schools, five middle schools, three high schools, four alternative schools, and one early childhood education center in the Texas towns of McKinney, New Hope and parts of Allen, Fairview, Weston, Princeton, and Lowry Crossing – has recently announced it will cease holding its graduation ceremonies at Prestonwood Baptist Church – one of the largest megachurches in the nation – after the church refused to remove a cross from the sanctuary. For more than a decade, the McKinney School District held graduation ceremonies for three hundred of its high schools in the massive sanctuary of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano. McKinney’s decision on a new site came after several Collin County residents expressed concerns about the presence of religion at some events. Taking to Twitter to express his concerns on the issue, Prestonwood Pastor Jack Graham blamed the move on the church’s refusal to cover up the cross, calling the school district’s decision “cowardly” and an attack on “religious freedom.” In another tweet, Graham suggested school administrators “yielded to the pressure of atheist groups and their supporters.”
Prayer Also Criticized by Some Parents
This church versus state tug-of-war started in August when some McKinney parents and community members blasted Superintendent Rick McDaniel for leading prayer at the district’s back-to-school employee convocation held each year at the church. At the time, McDaniel acknowledged not everyone in the audience may feel comfortable with his praying. He said: “It’s alright, I understand.” He did not mention any religious figures and hoped for a “moment of silence” for Barcelona, Spain, terror victims who perished only days earlier, and for all others who “lost their lives recently to terrorist activity around the world.” The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), an atheist rights group, quickly stepped in. FFRF lawyer Sam Grover called upon McKinney ISD trustees to discipline McDaniel, describing the convocation prayer as “not appropriate from a government entity.” He said multiple concerned McKinney residents and one school district staffer contacted FFRF. Given the tenacity of the FFRF, this is very likely the atheist group that Prestonwood’s pastor was referencing in his Twitter comments. Nevertheless, some families have felt uncomfortable with the graduation being held in a church and began suing the school district as long ago as 2009. Sadly, the school district appears to have acquiesced to the wishes expressed by parent and atheist groups.
Relevant Bible Passages
The Bible records that despite the best intentions of believers there will come a time when a great departure from the truth of God’s Word will occur. The New Testament refers to this event repeatedly. Paul mentions a coming “falling away” (KJV), or “rebellion” (2 Thessalonians 2:3 NIV). Paul further elaborates on this idea in 1 Timothy 4:1 when he notes that in the last days “some shall depart from the faith” (KJV). Moreover, Paul also warned that many people will be offended by Christianity (1 Corinthians 1:23) and will demonstrate their animosity by their actions (Philippians 3:18). Sadly, these verses come to mind when we hear of large groups of people – such as the parents in the McKinney Independent School District – who are outwardly offended by any mention of Christianity or event the sight of Christian symbols such as the cross. We should be heartbroken for these people and very much in prayer for them.
PRAY: Pray that God would strengthen and encourage the congregation at Prestonwood Baptist church to remain steadfast and not give in to the pressure being placed on them by some members of their community. Pray for God to reveal Himself to the families in that area and the members of the school district administration that are offend by the sight of the cross.