After weeks of contentious debate, five Connecticut high schools will move their graduation ceremonies out of a local Christian church. WNPR’s Diane Orson reports.
Windsor, South Windsor, East Hartford and Enrico Fermi High Schools, as well as the Metropolitan Learning Center Magnet School had been holding graduation ceremonies at “The First Cathedral” in Bloomfield. It’s a 120,000 square foot megachurch with religious iconography, including five large Christian crosses, a fountain in the shape of a cross, banners that read “Jesus Christ is Lord” and television screens that display the message “This is God’s House Where Jesus Christ is Lord”. The American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State warned the school districts to move graduation ceremonies to a secular location, or face a possible lawsuit. Andrew Schneider, Executive Director of CT’s ACLU says all students should feel welcome at their own graduation:
"A ceremony that they work very hard for over the course of 4 years. And certainly one that they are compelled to attend. Its an event that they should look forward to, not dread because they’re going to be subjected to religious messages that are not their own."
But costs associated with using First Church were significantly lower than renting other large facilities. Earlier this week a sharply divided Board of Ed in Windsor joined the others in voting in favor of a change in venue. The districts have not yet announced where their 2010 graduations will be held.
For WNPR, I’m Diane Orson.