I got this for the judge; maybe he appreciates the potency of aesthetics. Carter thinks it exemplifies activist judges.
The Story: The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling that holding a public school graduation in a church violates the Establishment Clause when the church has an indeterminate number of religious icons and symbolism in the building.
The Background: The court ruled inDoe v. Elmbrook School District that a high school administration violated the First Amendment’s no-religious-establishments by holding a graduation ceremony in a church building because of that particular building’s “proselytizing environment.”
As Richard Garnett explains, there was no dispute that the reasons for holding the ceremonies in the building had nothing to do with evangelism and everything to do with space and comfort. But, because the building is “indisputably and emphatically Christian,” the court majority concluded that holding the ceremonies in this building both “endorsed” religion and “coerced” religious exercise. The court wrote:Regardless of the purpose of school administrators in choosing the location, the sheer religiosity of the space created a likelihood that high school students and their younger siblings would perceive a link between church and state. That is, the activity conveyed a message of endorsement.
Why It Matters: The ruling appears to be a peculiar and disconcerting expansion of the Supreme Court’s already flawed Establishment Clause jurisprudence. The ruling does not explain what type or number of religious imagery constitutes a “proselytizing environment.” If this standard is allowed to become a precedent, future rulings could determine that any religious imagery creates an environment of proselytization and must be excluded.