FFRF halts graduation ceremony at church (September 3, 2013)

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has halted a school district from using a church building for their graduation ceremony. FFRF, a Wis.-based state/church watchdog, recently sent a letter to Hoover High School Superintendent Michael Hartenstein regarding the school’s troubling practice of holding commencement ceremonies inside Faith Family Church in North Canton, Ohio.

FFRF Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert was contacted by a local parent with concerns and on August 21, sent a letter outlining why the mandatory graduation ceremonies being held in a church are considered school-sponsored endorsement of religion.

“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.”

FFRF was informed that though the graduation itself was voluntary, graduates were required to attend a practice session at the church earlier this year.

Markert said: “It is no defense that graduations are events which participation or attendance is voluntary…. Students wishing to participate should not be forced to forgo this momentous occasion in their lives simply because Hoover High School deems it necessary to hold the graduation in a church.”

FFRF received a response on September 3, stating that the school district are in the process of seeking a non-church facility.

Freedom From Religion Foundation