Organization Pressures School Boards to Move Traditional Graduation Venue

Liberty Alerts, Liberty Counsel

Woodstock, GA – Liberty Counsel has sent a letter offering pro bono representation and advice to Cherokee County School District officials who are facing the threat of a lawsuit from Americans United for Separation of Church and State (“AU”) for holding their high school graduation ceremonies in a local church.

Cherokee County public schools have held graduation ceremonies at the local First Baptist Church for years. The 5,000-seat church has served as an aesthetic and efficient location for graduation ceremonies. The church charges $2,000 for such events, while other secular venues with similar seating cost up to $40,000. In addition to Cherokee County, several metro Atlanta school boards use similar venues, with DeKalb County using New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, and Cobb County making plans to hold their upcoming graduation ceremonies at the Turner Chapel AME Church. This is not novel, as Cobb County reports having held graduation ceremonies in both secular and religious venues for the past thirty years.

AU claims that holding graduation ceremonies in a church violates the First Amendment. However, the First Amendment does not require that schools eliminate churches as venues for graduation ceremonies. Liberty Counsel stands ready to support and assist Cherokee County School District, as well as the other neighboring districts, regarding the practice of permitting local religious venues to be used for graduation ceremonies. Such practices both have precedent and are clearly constitutional.

Mathew D. Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented: “Public schools may hold graduation ceremonies in churches. The First Amendment does not eliminate churches as possible venues for graduation. This kind of scare tactic and misrepresentation is typical of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. If a public school determines that a church provides a better location at a lower cost, then the First Amendment certainly allows school officials to make that choice.”

Used with permission.