Northwest High School in Canal Fulton, Ohio, will no longer hold graduation in church venues starting in 2015. The Freedom From Religion Foundation received a complaint that the school plans to hold its commencement ceremony at Akron Baptist Temple on May 24, 2014.
FFRF Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert sent a letter to the superintendent Feb. 17 informing the district that holding graduation ceremonies in churches is divisive and unconstitutional:
“This practice is unconstitutional because it forces graduating students and their family and friends wishing to participate in, view, or celebrate the graduation to enter a church to do so, even if the selected church espouses a religious ideology or belief to which they may not adhere.”
Markert further elaborated: “It is no defense that graduations are events at which participation or attendance is voluntary. Students wishing to participate should not be forced to forego this momentous occasion in their lives simply because Northwest High School deems it necessary to hold the graduation in a church.”
On April 8, the superintendent responded to Markert’s letter, “While it is not possible for the district to find an alternate location for graduation [this year], I have spoken to the Board and they have agreed to find a secular site for the 2015 graduating class.”