Enfield (Conn.) school board will stop using church for graduations

July 19, 2012
Board agrees to settle lawsuit over holding graduations in a religious setting

From The American Civil Liberties Union: The Enfield (Conn.) School Board has agreed not to hold graduations in a church as part of a lawsuit settlement.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Connecticut and Americans United for Separation of Church and State sued the Enfield district in May 2010 on behalf of some students and parents who objected to holding the graduations of Enfield and Fermi high schools at the First Cathedral in Bloomfield.

"The school board's decision to stop holding graduations in the church will protect the rights of students and their families and will bring the community back together," says Andrew Schneider, executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut. "This assures that no one will be forced into an overtly religious setting like the First Cathedral's sanctuary in order to attend a public school function."

In June 2010, a federal judge issued an injunction barring use of the church for graduation ceremonies. As a result, the 2010 and 2011 high school graduations were held on school grounds.

The school board has agreed not to hold future graduations at the First Cathedral, and the plaintiffs agreed to drop the lawsuit and a claim for nominal damages.

From 2007 through 2009, the Enfield high schools held their graduations in the Cathedral's sanctuary, underneath a 25-foot-tall stained-glass cross and large banners reading "Jesus Christ is Lord" and "I am GOD." The schools used the church site, the ACLU argued, even though more than a dozen non-religious sites in the area were available to host graduation ceremonies.

More on the settlement from the ACLU.

Also...from The Hartford Courant: In a 6-3 vote, the Enfield (Conn.) school board has decided to accept a settlement of a lawsuit over the school system's practice of holding high school graduation ceremonies in a church. The settlement calls for plaintiffs' legal fees, which total about $1 million, to be partially reimbursed. The school board's insurance provider will cover the cost of the settlement up to $470,000, Superintendent Jeffrey Schumann says. The exact dollar amount of the settlement was not revealed.

June 2010....from The Boston Globe: A federal judge has ruled that two public high schools in Enfield, Conn., cannot hold their graduations inside a church because that would be an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. The Enfield school board voted in April to hold graduation ceremonies for the town's two high schools at The First Cathedral in nearby Bloomfield. Board officials said the church, which fits 3,000 people, had enough space at the right price. Two students and three of their parents sued, contending that the decision was an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion.

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