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Can a school hold graduation in a church? Supreme Court declines case.

Publication Date: 
June 16, 2014
The Christian Science Monitor
Warren Richey

Professor Michael McConnell weighs in on the Supreme Court's decision to not review a case banning a high school from using a church for its graduation ceremonies for The Christian Science Monitor. 

The US Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up a case testing whether a Wisconsin public school district violated the First Amendment’s separation of church and state by conducting its high school graduation ceremony in a local church auditorium.

The case, Elmbrook School District v. Doe, was seen by some analysts as a potential vehicle for the justices to further clarify the high court’s Establishment Clause jurisprudence following the court’s opinion issued on May 5 upholding the conduct of a prayer before public meetings in the Town of Greece, N.Y.


In his brief urging the court to take up the Elmbrook case, Stanford Law School Professor Michael McConnell said the Seventh Circuit’s ruling was in conflict with decisions in other appeals courts upholding the use of church buildings for government purposes such as graduation ceremonies, classrooms, polling places, and post offices.

If allowed to stand, he said, the decision would unsettle longstanding practices in public schools and expose local governments to church-state litigation.