Last year, a U.S. Appeals Court ruled that two public high schools in Wisconsin had acted unconstitutionally by renting a church auditorium for their graduation ceremonies. While the ceremonies were not religious and were held at the church at the behest of the students for comfort and logistical reasons, the Seventh Circuit Court, in a sharply divided decision, insisted that the “pervasively religious environment” could cause students to believe the government was endorsing a certain religion. The U.S. Supreme Court has now been petitioned to hear the case.
Luke Goodrich of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, one of the organizations defending the school district, declared, “Religion is not asbestos, and the Constitution does not require the government to treat churches as contaminated buildings that are uniquely unfit for public events.” Noting that numerous public schools similarly use church facilities, he also stated, “If the Supreme Court agrees to hear the school district’s appeal, it has the potential to become one of the most significant church–state cases in many years.”
• Learn more about this case from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and from the school district.
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President Government Relations
Published: February 1, 2013