The Enfield school board is appealing a judge’s ruling released yesterday that bars Enfield and Enrico Fermi high schools students from graduating at the First Cathedral mega-church. The judge ruled holding the ceremonies there violates the First Amendment concept of separation of church and state.
The school board said its decision to hold the ceremonies at First Cathedral was a practical one based on space, parking and cost. But US District Court Judge Janet Hall wrote in her ruling, “By choosing to hold graduations at First Cathedral, Enfield schools sends the message that it is closely linked with First Cathedral and its religious mission, that it favors the religious over the irreligious and that it prefers Christians over those that subscribe to other faiths, or no faith at all…In addition to the character of the forum, the history and context of the decision to hold the graduations at First Cathedral also support the conclusion that, in doing so, Enfield Public Schools has endorsed religion.”
The Shad is certainly a proponent of the separation of church and state but thinks the ruling in this case is wrong and that it is a huge jump from “where can we find a place big enough with enough parking?” to “which religion should we endorse?” The First Amendment forbids government from endorsing any religion or favoring one over the other. Where is the evidence that by holding graduation ceremonies in a space that at other times is used for religious purposes is an endorsement of those other purposes? If the ceremonies were held in the gymnasium would that mean the school board endorses basketball over hockey? That comparison seems a bit silly. But maybe it’s not far off.
Caught in the middle of all this are the graduating students. As of now, they don’t know where their graduation will be held. Many of them worked very hard to get to this point and “their day” is being tossed around by outside groups such as the ACLU, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State; and on the other side, the American Center for Law and Justice. All these groups are out to push their own agenda and are using the Enfield case to further their own means.
Lawyers for the school board are promising “an expedited review” by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals so the last chapter in this story has yet to be written.