FFRF stops Nevada public school graduation in church

A Nevada public school is no longer holding its graduation ceremonies inside a church, following a Freedom From Religion Foundation complaint.

For at least the past three years, Coral Academy of Science’s eighth grade promotion and twelfth grade graduation ceremonies had been performed in The Church at South Las Vegas, and the church was scheduled to be the host again this year.

The First Amendment prohibits public schools from holding their graduation ceremonies inside a place of worship, FFRF asserted. It’s unconstitutional because it forces graduating students and their friends to enter a church that possibly espouses a sectarian religious ideology at variance with their own beliefs. Plus, it has the appearance of the school’s endorsement of Christianity.

“It is unconstitutional for a public high school to compel its graduating students and their families, teachers and friends to violate their rights of conscience to attend a graduation ceremony,” FFRF Legal Fellow Madeline Ziegler wrote in a letter to the governing board of the school. “Many courts have held that holding graduations in churches violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.” 

FFRF urged the school to find a “more appropriate, secular location” for this year’s ceremonies.

And the school did.

Coral Academy of Science at Las Vegas “will endeavor not to hold graduation ceremonies at that facility in the future, and has recently changed the site of its 2016 ceremonies from there to a secular venue on the UNLV campus,” Mark Gardberg, legal counsel for the school, recently responded

FFRF welcomes the shift in location.

“No one should be compelled to enter a place of worship for such an important public school occasion,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “We appreciate that Coral Academy of Science realizes that schools should not be imposing such a burden on their students.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nontheistic organization with 23,000 members nationwide, including 200 in Nevada.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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