Fight over God and gowns: Move to churches for high school graduation faces constitutional challenge

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For the past two years, high schools in the town of Enfield, Conn. have preferred the indoor comforts of a church for their graduation ceremonies. But lawyers are now moving to stop the practice after it left some students feeling increasingly out in the cold.

A federal suit filed in May alleged that the public schools had violated the U.S. Constitution, which restricts government entities such as public schools from endorsing a particular religion, the latest flash point in a growing national debate on whether graduations have become too entangled in religion.

Enfield High School and Enrico Fermi High School, cited in the complaint, have decided to hold their ceremonies Wednesday and Thursday in their campus fields after a judge issued an injunction temporarily barring them from holding commencement in First Cathedral Church, in Bloomfield, Conn.

It is unclear if schools are holding more graduations in church or whether individuals are becoming more active in asking courts to stop them. But in recent years, school districts in Wisconsin, Florida and Maryland have also faced suits or threats of litigation over decisions to hold graduations in church.

Read the whole thing.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducationLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture

Posted June 25, 2010 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Larry Morse wrote:

This legal challenge gives puerile and petty and new face. A graduation has nothing to do with a denomination. And to suppose that the building itself is a constitutional contaminant is ....  Larry

June 25, 7:34 am | [comment link]
2. montanan wrote:

Seems like more silliness to me; however, I suppose I would need to think a little about having my kids have their graduation ceremonies in a mosque.  I’m not sure it would bother me, but it is something to think about.

June 25, 2:28 pm | [comment link]
3. evan miller wrote:

Way back when I graduated from my public high school, we held our graduation in the gym but the evening before, the baccalaureate service was held in a local church.  How times have changed.  For the worse.  My children all attended Roman Catholic schools and their graduations were wonderful, complete will full mass with the bishop the celebrant, assisted by several priests.

June 25, 3:17 pm | [comment link]
4. NoVA Scout wrote:

No. 2 cites a test that partly limns out the issue:  If one would not mind having one’s child graduate in a mosque or a Hindu temple, then perhaps this is not an issue. 

My daughter has several Muslim children in her graduation class.  I know their parents well enough to think that they would not be at ease at (and perhaps could not attend or have their children attend) a graduation in a Christian place of worship.  I would not want them to feel excluded on so important a day.

June 26, 8:31 am | [comment link]
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