Saturday, June 21, 2008

congratulations graduate: now pray!

here we go again... blurring the lines... graduation in a church?

from the national school boards association:

N.J. district settles lawsuit over holding graduation in church

According to the Newark Star-Ledger, Newark Public Schools has settled a lawsuit filed in 2007 by the American Civil Liberties Union-New Jersey (ACLU-NJ) on behalf of Bilal Shareef, a Muslim student who skipped his graduation from West Side High School two years ago because it was held in the sanctuary of a Baptist Church.

The suit alleged that Bilal's faith prohibited him from entering a building with religious icons, such as pictures of God or images of the cross, according to the suit filed. The suit claimed when West Side High held its graduation at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark two years ago, the district violated the New Jersey Constitution by forcing people to attend a place of worship contrary to their faith and discriminated because of religious principles.

According to the settlement, the district agreed not to sponsor or promote religious events, to no longer reward students for attendance at religious events or ceremonies, and to stop using religious buildings or places of worship for school events. Nonetheless, the settlement still allows NPS to schedule events with other schools that use religious buildings, and students may still visit religious buildings if the purpose is "both academic and secular in nature."

Superintendent Marion Bolden confirmed that there was also a financial settlement between NPS and Shareef. In addition, NPS issued an apology to the Shareefs and other students who "felt forced to forego or uncomfortable attending the 2005 or 2006 graduations." NPS legal counsel Perry Lattiboudere's statement emphasized that the settlement agreement "reaffirmed that the past scheduling of graduation ceremonies at local church locations was not in any way intended to make any student or member of the community feel uncomfortable in attending the ceremony."

Mr. Bolden acknowledged that in response to the lawsuit, and concerns students might be discouraged from attending graduation, none of the district's schools are holding commencement at religious buildings this year. The ceremonies will be held in either government owned facilities or secular private venues. "There has to be sensitivity to that because you don't know what children are thinking," he said. "(Shareef) might have been the one who voiced an objection, but others might have gone and been uncomfortable."

Source: Newark Star-Ledger, 6/10/08, By Kasi Addison

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i can't believe that nps can still schedule events with other schools that use religious buildings. it is only acceptable if there is an athletic event at a religious school. anyway, i am glad that ppl see that there are other religions besides christianity. however, i think more ppl need to open their minds to atheism. it would solve a lot more probs and there would be less conflict.