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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Should high schools hold graduations in places of worship?



Around the Tampa Bay area, this question appears to get an unabashed yes.

Several schools pay rent to use the sanctuaries of churches and worship centers for their commencement ceremonies every year. Their rationale is fairly straightforward: The churches are larger than many school gyms to hold large audiences, they cost less than paying for a sporting arena like the USF Sun Dome, and they're generally unused many days and nights of the week.

But there's another side to the equation, one that's being played out in a federal appeals court in Wisconsin.

Americans United is fighting a Wisconsin high school's graduation at a church, noting that the pews are filled with hymnals and the walls are covered with crosses. Evangelical pamphlets and postings also appear all over the church.

AU filed its lawsuit on behalf of nine students, parents and graduates. "The plaintiffs feel unwelcome and extremely uncomfortable attending graduation ceremonies at the church due to its religion-permeated environment."

Right now, the case is regional. But if it continues forward to the U.S. Supreme Court, it would have national implications, including here in Florida.

Wonder what our lawmakers, who are currently moving to permit prayer at school events including graduations, would do.

[Last modified: Friday, November 18, 2011 3:55pm]


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