Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Connecticut Schools' Plan To Hold Graduations In Church Is Ruled Unconstitutional

Ceremonies Must Be Held In Nonreligious Venue Following Challenge By Americans United and ACLU

May 31, 2010

ENFIELD, CT A federal judge has declared that the Enfield Public Schools' plan to hold high school graduation ceremonies at a Christian church is unconstitutional, and has ordered the school board to find an alternative venue. The graduation plans were challenged in court by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the ACLU of Connecticut and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The complaint pointed out that there are many secular facilities in the area that the Enfield Schools could use, including a number that compare favorably to the cathedral in terms of cost, size and distance from Enfield. At least three of those facilities have been holding open the June 23 and 24 dates of the graduations for the Enfield Schools just in case the venue needed to be changed.

"The court's ruling will ensure that no student or parent has to choose between missing their own graduation and being subjected to a religious environment of a faith to which they do not subscribe," said Americans United Senior Litigation Counsel Alex J. Luchenitser.
"It is unconstitutional and wrong for a school district to subject students and families to religious messages as the price of attending graduation."

The groups brought the legal action on behalf of two Enfield High School seniors and three of their parents. The lawsuit challenged plans to hold commencement at First Cathedral, a Bloomfield church replete with religious signs and symbols, including at least three large crosses that could not be covered or removed for graduation.

"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, Executive Director of the ACLU of Connecticut. "The Enfield Schools' plan to hold the ceremonies in a church created an unnecessary divisive atmosphere for what should be a positive and inclusive event for all students."

Read the full press release at www.au.org

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