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Ban on Churches Hosting High School Graduations Heads to Supreme Court

(Updated) Becket Fund appeals Seventh Circuit ruling that renting church auditoriums for public school graduations is unconstitutional.

Update (May 13): The Supreme Court still has not decided whether or not to take up the Elmbrook Church case, even after weeks of deliberation. The case, which already has been listed several times for consideration, may be re-listed.


Last July, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Elmbrook School District violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment when it held its high school graduations in the event center of a local evangelical church. But now that ruling is headed to the United States Supreme Court.

Lawyers from The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed a formal petition last month with the Supreme Court to appeal the lower court's ruling in favor of the secularist organization and families that sued Elmbrook over its decision to rent a church auditorium in 2009.

Becket reports that "the schools rented the auditorium at the request of their students, who complained that the alternative facilities—the school gymnasiums—were uncomfortable, lacked air conditioning, and lacked adequate space for friends and family to attend."

Previous rulings in the case upheld the district's right to rent the space. Although the school district now holds graduation ceremonies on school property, The Brookfield Patch reports that the district is pursuing the case to clarify whether or not it is allowed to rent church property in the future.

CT has regularly reported on church-state issues related to public schools, including whether or not schools can offer credit for religious classes and whether or not schools can ban worship.

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