BOSCOBEL (WKOW) -- A Boscobel gay pastor is challenging her exclusion from invited clergy guests to an upcoming event to honor the community's graduating high school seniors.
Reverend Jen Johnson of Boscobel's United Church of Christ congregation told 27 News she attended the Baccalaureate ceremony several years ago, but invitations stopped after committee members became aware Johnson lived with her partner, Brenda Peterson.
Father Peter Auer of the sponsoring catholic church Corpus Christi told 27 News Johnson was invited to attend, but not function as a clergy member.
Auer said Johnson's gay lifestyle barred her. "It is a sin against God."
"You can't tell me there aren't lesbian, gay and bi-sexual students," Johnson said.
"All of them are hearing, 'Oh my, here's a pastor that can't be here because she's gay."
Johnson posted her predicament on her Facebook page, and told 27 News it went viral. Johnson said the responses she's received have supported her attendance at the event.
Boscobel public librarian Robin Orlandi, speaking as a private citizen, said excluding Johnson because she was gay sends the wrong message to students. "That doesn't seem like a fair or just way to judge people in the community."
Boscobel schools superintendent Steve Smith said the Baccalaureate ceremony is entirely church-sponsored, even though its list of honorees contains exclusively high school seniors. Smith said the school district's non-discrimination policies do not apply.
Johnson said she's meeting with a member of the event committee Wednesday to discuss the make up of the May 23 ceremony.
Committee chairperson Cathy Swenson told 27 News Johnson is a respected community member, but committee members have deferred to the faith objections to Johnson's gay lifestyle of some of the event's participating clergy.
"If they were aware of a pastor being involved in an affair, they would also require that person not participate," Swenson said.
Johnson's Facebook post also led to a movement to pack her upcoming Sunday church service in a show of support.
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