A public charter school was holding its graduation ceremonies in a church sanctuary that featured several religious symbols. AU wrote a letter to school officials explaining that it is unconstitutional to hold a public school’s graduation ceremony in a church. The principal responded and said that they were unable to move this year’s graduation ceremony because of time constraints, but agreed that they would cover the crosses and other religious iconography and that they would use a secular venue for future graduations.
AU received a complaint that a public high school was holding its graduation in a local church. We wrote to the school district to explain that the Establishment Clause prohibits the holding of public-school graduation ceremonies in churches. The school district responded and agreed to seek a secular venue for its graduations in upcoming years.
AU received a complaint that New Berlin Eisenhower High School had held its 2008 graduation ceremony in an evangelical Christian church and that it planned to use the same venue for its 2009 graduation. The church is replete with religious iconography, including a large cross that hangs directly over the stage where graduates would have received their diplomas. We wrote to the school district to explain that holding a high-school graduation in a church is unconstitutional and to request that the district move the graduation to a secular venue.
AU learned that the Roseville Joint Union High School District planned to relocate Roseville High School’s June commencement ceremony from its usual venue — the school’s football stadium — to the Adventure Christian Church. The decision was made to accommodate plans to replace the turf at the field. AU wrote a letter to school officials, informing them that holding the graduation in a church would be unconstitutional, and encouraging them to delay the renovations to the football stadium for two weeks so that the ceremony could take place there.
After receiving several opinion letters from a local law firm advising that it would be legally permissible to hold high-school graduation ceremonies in churches, the Montgomery County School Board decided to revisit its policy requiring Montgomery County high schools to hold graduations in secular venues. AU wrote a letter to the Board, correcting several misstatements of law made in the opinion letters, and informing the Board that its current policy was the only way to protect students’ First Amendment rights.
For the third consecutive year, officials at Bucks County Technical High School scheduled the school’s graduation ceremony to take place in the sanctuary of a local Christian church, where graduating students are seated directly below an enormous cross. In a letter to the school, AU objected to the practice, and requested that the ceremony be relocated, or that, at a minimum, religious iconography be covered.
Imagine the pride I felt this weekend when my 16-year-old daughter handed me a copy of her high school’s newspaper featuring the first two news stories she has written for that publication.
Silver Chips is an award-winning student newspaper, and I’m pleased that my daughter has joined the staff. I’ve explained to her that while print journalism isn’t exactly a growing profession these days, a person can usually always manage to make a living through writing. Someone will have to write all of that news online, after all.
This summer, I will celebrate my 10-year high school reunion. In fact, just last week I received a Facebook message from our class president to "save the date" (which, as a side note, I doubt I will be "saving").
But reading the message got me thinking. High school can be a tough place, but there definitely were some good times. And one of those times was putting on my cap and gown to celebrate finally getting out of there!
This morning, I started off my work day by taking a call from a "concerned citizen."
Her "concern" was that Americans United was "just evil." She wanted me to know how awful AU was for sending letters yesterday to three public school districts and a community college, asking them to stop using Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisc., as the venue for graduation ceremonies.