Canton Local School District in Canton Ohio, will no longer hold graduation in church venues from 2015 onward. FFRF was informed that Canton South High School has a tradition of holding its graduation ceremonies and plans to hold this year’s ceremony at Canton Baptist Temple on May 27, 2014.
FFRF Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert sent a letter to the district on Feb. 17 explaining why holding graduation in houses of worship is unconstitutional. It forces graduating students and their family and friends to enter a church even if the selected church espouses a religious ideology or belief to which they might not adhere:
“Students wishing to participate should not be forced to forego this momentous occasion in their lives simply because Canton South High School deems it necessary to hold the graduation in a church. . . [The] selection of Canton Baptist Temple as the site for the Canton South High School commencement ceremony demonstrates the school’s preference for religion over nonreligion, and more specifically, Christianity over all other faiths.”
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.”