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FFRF demands Appleton School District take action against board member and pastor

Freedom From Religion Foundation demands Appleton School District takes action against board member and Pastor Alvin Dupree, June 17, 2019. (WLUK)
Freedom From Religion Foundation demands Appleton School District takes action against board member and Pastor Alvin Dupree, June 17, 2019. (WLUK)
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APPLETON, Wis. (WLUK) -- An Appleton pastor may be feeling the heat for bringing religion into Appleton North High School's graduation ceremony.

Pastor Alvin Dupree is also on the Appleton Area School District's Board of Education.

An organization that fights for separation of church and state wants the district to take action.

"You get me, you get my black skin, I can't hide it,” said Pastor Alvin Dupree of Family First Ministries. “You get me, you get my faith; it's my personality, it's my makeup."

During Dupree’s speech at Appleton North High School's graduation, he urged students to lean on their sources of strength, whatever those may be.

"My source of strength is my faith and my relationship with Jesus Christ,” Dupree said, before the crowd began cheering. “Sounds like I've got some believers in this room. If you are here and you believe that, go ahead and clap your hands!”

After a 10-and-a-half-minute speech delivered by Dupree, the Freedom From Religion Foundation says it began getting complaints.

Those complaints came directly from Appleton North students and parents.

"It made those students who are not Christian feel like outsiders,” said FFRF co-president Dan Barker. “They felt like, 'This is my graduation, and I'm being made to feel like it's not my graduation. This is a Christian community, and I'm being forced to listen to Christian messages.’"

Dupree said he shook hands with over 400 students who graduated that day on June 6.

“I can tell you over a hundred of them, when they shook my hand, they said, 'Thank you, and God bless you too!'"

Dupree says he believes this is nothing more than a personal attack by a couple of school board members, stemming from his work with the Appleton School District's Truancy Court.

"Because I made it clear, it's my faith, my conviction that would not allow for me to be silent with the truancy court that went on for a decade,” he said.

Parts of Dupree’s own speech to students may now even be fitting for himself.

In it, Dupree told students to "never succumb to the pressure of being politically correct" or "conform to any man’s norm.”

He went on to include a student who died before graduation in his remarks

"Can we just pause for a moment of silence for him, as I pray for him?” he asked during the ceremony.

Barker referred to Dupree as a “maverick.”

“He's breaking the law, and flouting it, and bragging about it,” said Barker. “In this country of laws, somehow those laws need to be enforced."

Dupree then concluded his speech by changing things up a bit.

"It was typed out to say 'Best wishes,' but I'm changing their script to what I would say: God bless!"

He said he received the class on behalf of the Appleton School Board of Education, but he ended it on behalf of himself.

"I did, on behalf of the Appleton Area School District, at the end of the speech, receive the class, however, abandoning that script to not conform to any man's norm, I used my personality, because it's common for me to say 'God bless you,’ and that's exactly what I meant; I meant God bless you,” Dupree said.

But the FFRF says an elected official does not have “carte blanche to abuse his office to push his personal religion on everybody else."

However, pastor and elected official are just two of many titles Dupree has.

He's also a retired U.S. Marine, who once fought for the very thing he says others are trying to take away from him.

"To try to say that we can't do what people have laid down their life, and what this constitution and this country has been established on, that's offensive,” Dupree said. “That's just outright wrong.”

The FFRF says it hasn't taken legal action yet.

The organization wants to give the district a chance to correct the problem first.

"I can tell you, personally, I will not conform to any policies that are put into place that going to censor me, will not conform to anything that's going to try to redirect, or try to get even our students to conform to another man's norm,” said Dupree.

Dupree also says Appleton's School Board will likely meet on how to address the complaint.

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FOX 11 reached out to Appleton Schools, as well as the Board of Education, but we have yet to hear back from any representatives.

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