Published Online: August 7, 2012
Published in Print: August 8, 2012, as Appeals Court Denies Graduation in Church

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Appeals Court Denies Graduation in Church

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A Wisconsin district’s use of a Christian church for its high school graduation ceremonies violated the U.S. Constitution, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, in Chicago, ruled 7-3 that the practice of the Elmbrook district near Milwaukee resulted in government endorsement of religion and coercion of students in violation of the First Amendment’s prohibition against any government establishment of religion.

Last month’s decision in Doe v. Elmbrook School District reverses rulings by a federal district court and a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit court.

From 2000 to 2009, the district used the auditorium of an evangelical “megachurch” with Christian symbols on display, as the graduation site for its two high schools.

The practice was challenged by a group of non-Christian students and parents, whose suit alleged that during some graduation ceremonies, the church operated its information booth or passed out evangelical literature.

Vol. 31, Issue 37, Pages 4-5

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