Elmbrook School District v. Doe: Will the U.S. Supreme Court Rule on the Constitutionality of Holding Public High School Graduations in Elmbrook Church?

11 April 2013 Wisconsin Appellate Law Blog

During its conference this Friday, April 12, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to consider Elmbrook School District’s petition for a writ of certiorari seeking reversal of a decision issued last summer by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Doe v. Elmbrook School District, 687 F.3d 840 (7th Cir. 2012).

The Seventh Circuit, sitting en banc, disagreed with the initial decision of one of its panels and reversed the district court. The en banc court ruled that that the District violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment when it held Brookfield Central and Brookfield East High Schools’ graduations in the sanctuary at Elmbrook Church in Brookfield during most of the 2000s. Earlier developments in the case were discussed on this blog. Although the District no longer holds either high school’s graduation at the church, it has refused to say that it will never do so again, and so the case continues. 

The case has generated a lot of interest from groups concerned with religious liberty issues; both parties are represented by lawyers from non-profit organizations committed to different views on religious freedom and expression: The District by the The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and the plaintiffs by Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Several entities have also filed amicus curiae briefs in support of the District’s petition: Alliance Defending Freedom, the state of Texas, the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, and a series of education associations, led by the Association of School Administrators.

The justices previously held over consideration of the District’s petition at their March 29 conference. If they decide the petition this time, grant or denial is most likely to be reported on an Orders List that will be released at 8:30 a.m. Central Time next Monday, April 15.

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