Marlington High School in Alliance, Ohio, will no longer hold graduation in church venues starting in 2015. The Freedom From Religion Foundation received a complaint that the school was scheduled to hold its commencement ceremony at Chapel in Marlboro on June 1, 2014.
FFRF Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert sent a letter to the superintendent Feb. 17 informing the district that holding graduation ceremonies in churches demonstrates a preference for religion over nonreligion:
“[I]t is unconstitutional for a public high school to force, compel or coerce its graduating students, their parents, teachers and other members of their families or friends, to violate their rights of conscience at a graduation ceremony.”
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 Marlington High School deems it necessary to hold the graduation in a church.”
On May 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.”