BOSCOBEL (WKOW) -- A Boscobel high school official told 27 News a planned, church-based ceremony for graduating seniors was canceled, after a gay pastor protested her exclusion from the event.
The Baccalaureate ceremony for as many as eighty students was scheduled for May 23 at an area Catholic church, with no invitation extended to United Church of Christ congregation pastor Jen Johnson.
The annual event involves area clergy honoring and encouraging graduating students.
Baccalaureate committee chair Cathy Swenson told 27 News volunteers and clergy involved in event planning had issues with Johnson's sexual orientation. Swenson said it was decided the ceremony's integrity was at risk if plans went forward.
"It became obvious it was becoming a three ring circus and the purpose of Baccalaureate would be pushed aside. It would just be a media spectacle, and that was not our desire," said Swenson.
Johnson had registered her outrage with being excluded in a Facebook post, and reaction on social media was considerable. Swenson said she wished the conflicting views had been discussed privately.
In an interview Tuesday, Johnson said her exclusion from the panel of local clergy members at Baccalaureate began several years ago, when people became aware she was in a lesbian relationship. Johnson said she absorbed the snub for years in deference to the honored student guests, but reached a breaking point this year.
Johnson was unavailable for comment to 27 News Thursday on her reaction to the event's cancellation.
School parent Joyce Rutherford expressed dismay over the scrapping of the long-standing, rite-of-passage tradition, and said organizers should have included Johnson.
"She should be able to preach, and should be allowed to do what she loves to do."
Although Baccalaureate's purpose is focused on high school seniors, school officials said it is not a school-run event.
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