Alvin Dupree, a local pastor in Appleton, Wisconsin, is staring down controversy after he invoked the name of Jesus during a speech at a recent high school graduation ceremony.
Dupree, who also serves on the Appleton Area School District’s Board of Education, is taking heat from the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation. But the Family First Ministries pastor is not backing down.
“You get me, you get my black skin. I can’t hide it,” he said, according to WLUK-TV. “You get me, you get my faith; it’s my personality, it’s my makeup.”
During his address, the Appleton pastor urged students to turn to whatever it is that gives them strength. For Dupree, it’s his Christian faith.
“My source of strength is my faith and my relationship with Jesus Christ,” he said before the audience cheered. “Sounds like I’ve got some believers in this room. If you are here and you believe that, go ahead and clap your hands!”
Immediately following the minister’s 10-minute keynote address, FFRF co-president Dan Barker said complaints began pouring in. Dupree’s faith-based comments, Barker claimed, made students who were not Christians “feel like outsiders.”
Dupree also encouraged students not to “succumb to the pressure of being politically correct” or “conform to any man’s norm.”
“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,’” Barker said of non-Christian attendees.
For his part, Dupree is confident the backlash he’s facing is nothing more than a personal attack by a couple fellow school board members.
At the end of his graduation speech, Dupree said, “God bless.” He then shook hands with more than 400 students who graduated June 6. Of those, he recalled, more than 100 reciprocated his greeting.
The FFRF, though, remains none too pleased.
Barker described Dupree as “a maverick,” and he didn’t mean it as a compliment. He also accused the pastor, a retired U.S. Marine, of “abus[ing] his office to push his personal religion on everybody else.”
“He’s breaking the law, and flouting it, and bragging about it,” the co-president complained. “In this country of laws, somehow those laws need to be enforced.”