Marlington High School finds secular venue for graduation (May 8, 2014)

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.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation