Appeals court says church can't be site of public school graduation

July 24, 2012
Panel says Elmwood (Wis.) district violated the constitution by holding commencement in local church

From The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: The Elmbrook (Wis.) School District violated the constitutional separation of church and state by holding graduation ceremonies inside a church, the U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled Monday. The ruling reverses a previous ruling by a district court and a three-judge panel. Writing for the majority in a 7-3 decision, Judge Joel Flaum said the risk of children perceiving the state as endorsing a certain religion is the same whether it happens in the classroom or at an off-site event. The decision was the result of a suit brought by the Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The district's two high schools, Brookfield East and Brookfield Central, both held graduation ceremonies at a church for much of the 2000s.

Read the opinions (majority and dissenting) from the U.S. Court of Appeals. (PDF file, 83 pages)

SEPTEMBER 2011...from Brookfield Patch: A federal appeals court has upheld the Elmbrook (Wis.) School District's decision to hold high school graduation ceremonies in a Christian church. The 7 th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the ceremonies did not violate separation of church and state. Because venues on either campus were too small, Elmbrook's two high schools, Brookfield Central and Brookfield East, from 2002 to 2009, held their graduations at Elmbrook Church, a nondenominational Christian church in Brookfield. The district's practice of renting the church for its graduation ended in 2010 when Elmbrook moved its graduation ceremonies for each high school to a new field house at Brookfield East.

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