Americans United has urged a full federal appeals court to hold that it is unconstitutional for a public school to hold graduation ceremonies in the sanctuary of a Wisconsin church.
In a Sept. 9 decision, a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the practice does not violate the Constitution. AU is asking the 11-judge bench to review the ruling.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of nine students, parents and graduates of the Elmbrook School District. The plaintiffs said they feel unwelcome and extremely uncomfortable attending graduation ceremonies in a church.
“Public schools should schedule graduation ceremonies at facilities where all families feel welcome,” AU Senior Litigation Counsel Alex J. Luchenitser said. “Students should not have to be immersed in an intensely religious environment of a faith different from their own in order to attend their graduation. Graduation is too important to leave some families out.”
Americans United has noted that there are numerous facilities available for graduation ceremonies that do not involve religion, and other school districts in the area make use of them.