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Judge rules against graduation in a church
Ankita Rao, Religion News Service
June 02, 2010
2 MIN READ TIME

Judge rules against graduation in a church

Judge rules against graduation in a church
Ankita Rao, Religion News Service
June 02, 2010

WASHINGTON — A federal judge

ruled Monday (May 31) that a Connecticut school board’s decision to hold

graduation ceremonies inside a megachurch was unconstitutional.

Commencements for two

schools in Enfield, Conn. — Enfield High School and Enrico Enfermi High School,

were to be held at The First Cathedral in Bloomfield in late June.

The American Civil Liberties

Union (ACLU) joined Americans United for Separation of Church and State to

represent two Enfield High School students and their parents who opposed the

use of the religious venue. The school board said their decision was a matter

of space and price.

“We are pleased that the

court has found that holding a public high school graduation ceremony in an

overtly religious setting is inappropriate when comparable secular facilities

are available,” said Andrew Schneider, the executive director of the ACLU of

Connecticut.

Enfield Public Schools

previously joined four local schools that agreed not to use the church for

graduation. However, they repealed their decision in April after “heavy

lobbying from a religious

organization,” according to

an ACLU press release.

On Monday, U.S. District

Court Judge Janet Hall said the venue would force the school district to “unconstitutionally

entangle itself with religion,” especially when school officials promised to

cover up religious symbols at the church.

One student who filed the official complaint

said the religious environment was uncomfortable and offensive.

“By requiring a graduating

senior — or a parent of one — to enter First Cathedral in order to be able to

participate in his or her graduation — or to watch their child graduate —

Enfield Public Schools has coerced plaintiffs to support religion,” Hall said.

The decision followed three

years of complaints by students at Enfield High School; last year, 90 percent

of the graduating class had voted against graduation at the cathedral,

according to a letter to the school board from Americans United and the ACLU.

The letter also included a

list of nearby facilities that could accommodate the graduating class within

the school’s budget for the summer commencement ceremonies.