Ringgold High School accused of holding unconstitutional graduation ceremony

Ringgold High School accused of holding unconstitutional graduation ceremony

July 2nd, 2018 by Tyler Jett in Breaking News

An attorney at the Freedom From Religion Foundation accused Catoosa County Schools of holding an unconstitutional graduation ceremony.

Christopher Line, a legal fellow at the foundation, said that the Ringgold High School's May ceremony should not have begun with a prayer, which can alienate the other students who are not religious.

"The Supreme Court has continually struck down prayers at school-sponsored events, including public school graduations," he wrote to Renzo Wiggins, the school board's attorney. "... School officials may not invite a student, teacher, faculty member, or clergy to give any type of prayer, invocation, or benediction at a public high school graduation."

Line asked Wiggins to provide a list in writing of the steps the school system will take to make sure religious rituals are not part of school-sponsored events.

In response to the letter, Catoosa County Schools Superintendent Denia Reese said in a statement, "Graduation ceremonies are planned and led by students. If and when the system receives a complaint, the system's attorney will thoroughly research the allegations, and when he has completed this research he will respond to the Freedom from Religion Foundation explaining how our students can continue to develop graduation programs and lead the ceremonies."

Line told the Times Free Press this is the sixth letter his organization has sent the school system since 2013. 

In October 2016, the Foundation wrote to the system after the Heritage High School football team held a baptism on campus after a practice. The event was supposed to honor a former student who died in a car crash that fall. Coaches were with the team during the baptism.

In July 2017, the Foundation wrote to the system because students made flag holders that looked like crosses and also formed a partnership with a Christian non-profit that helps build schools, churches and homes in Nicaragua. 

The Foundation wrote the school system again in September 2017 because of a religious club at Ringgold Elementary School.

The foundations acts on tips from local residents.