Posts Tagged “bloomfield CT”

First Cathedral (Baptist), Bloomfield, CTIt took over two years, but the town of Enfield here in Connecticut finally resolved a lawsuit it brought on itself by holding its high school graduation in churches. The Hartford Courant reports on the settlement (WebCite cached article):

In a 6-3 vote, the school board decided Wednesday night to accept a settlement of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU over the school system’s practice of holding high school graduation ceremonies in a church.

The American Civil Liberties Union and another group, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, filed the suit two years ago after the school board decided to hold graduation ceremonies for both Enfield High School and Enrico Fermi High School at First Cathedral in Bloomfield.

I’d blogged about this conflict, back when it erupted in spring of 2010. At the time litigation over this began, various Christianist legal outfits had promised the town and its Board of Education that they’d pay the legal fees, thus encouraging them to defend the lawsuit despite having no chance of prevailing. But I note, in the end, these promises proved bogus, because none of those groups are paying a dime:

The school board’s insurance provider, the Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency, will cover the cost of the settlement up to $470,000, Superintendent Jeffrey Schumann said. The exact dollar amount of the settlement was not revealed.

I wonder if their Jesus taught these guys not to keep their word?

The Courant article includes the expected childish whining and bellyaching on the part of Christianists, both on the Board and in the town, who don’t like the vote and call the ACLU and AU “bullies.” Well … boo fucking hoo, you crybabies! What you were doing was unconstitutional, and you know it. If you had any integrity in the first place, you’d realize that, and would now show the courage to admit having been wrong. But you won’t, because you have no courage; you’re just juvenile religionists who can’t help but stamp and fume when someone dares thwart you.

Photo credit: Hartford Courant.

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The First Cathedral, A Megachurch in Bloomfield Connecticut, during Sunday Morning Praise and WorshipAbout 6 weeks ago I blogged about Enfield (CT) Public Schools and their religionist determination to proselytize to high school graduates and their families by holding commencements for its two high schools in a church in nearby Bloomfield. As I expected, a federal judge has prevented this arrangement. The Hartford Courant reports on this decision (WebCite cached article):

A federal judge on Monday ruled that Enfield High School and Enrico Fermi High School will not be able to hold their graduation ceremonies at First Cathedral.

U.S. District Court Judge Janet Hall heard closing arguments last week in a legal challenge that five Enfield residents — two high school seniors and three parents — filed to block the town from renting the 3,000-seat mega-church in neighboring Bloomfield. The graduations are scheduled for June 23 and 24.

“By attempting to ‘neutralize’ the First cathedral by covering up many (albeit not all) of its religious images, Enfield Public Schools unconstitutionally entangles itself with religion,” Hall wrote in her decision dated Monday. “And … by requiring a graduating senior — or parent of one — to enter First Cathedral in order to be able to participate in his or her graduation — or to watch their child graduate — Enfield Public Schools has coerced plaintiffs to support religion.”

Although the Courant story discusses the religious imagery in First Cathedral, and inadequate attempts to cover it up, that isn’t the only problem cited. Another claim that Enfield Public Schools have made is that they cannot locate any alternative facilities for the same price; thus, by comparison, First Cathedral is their only available choice. In her decision, however, Judge Hall points out that the school board’s attempts to find alternatives were insincere:

The Board’s evaluation of alternative venues in March and April 2010 does not appear to be an open-minded consideration of legitimate available alternatives. First Cathedral was never included in the written comparisons offered at either the March 23 or April 13, 2010 Board meetings, and the minutes of those meetings reflect no discussion as to First Cathedral’s actual price or amenities. Furthermore, the Board was aware that several locations offered similar accommodations for graduation ceremonies at a price less than the $32,000 budget. The rental fee for Symphony Hall, for example, totals $11,400 for both schools — a figure that is at least $5000 less than the rental fee charged by First Cathedral. Although the facility seats 2611 graduates and spectators would likely require Enfield Schools to limit each graduate to eight (8) tickets each, it was deemed “that should not be a huge issue.”

Chairman Stokes noted that there were other ways in which Symphony Hall did not match First Cathedral in meeting particular criteria that the Board was looking for, but the Board never generated a concrete list of the precise criteria that needed to be met. Indeed, certain requirements that Chairman Stokes claims the Board believed a venue had to satisfy seem designed to eliminate First Cathedral’s competitors. During the May 24, 2010 hearing, for example, the court asked Stokes, “What size is a minimum size that you think makes a facility acceptable?” Chairman Stokes replied, “I think that being able to have unlimited seating where anybody can come in and celebrate with their families is probably where I have leaned to.” When the court inquired further and asked what constitutes “unlimited seating,” Stokes replied, “In this case here it is about 3000 seats.” First Cathedral’s seating capacity is 3000.

Looks like the board’s putative “search for alternatives” was cleverly skewed so as to arrive at the predetermined result. This means it was not a genuine “search” and thus, by claiming to have actually “searched” for alternatives when they never intended to permit the graduation to be held anywhere else, Enfield Public Schools is guilty of disingenuity.

This places them into my “lying liars for Jesus” club.

Something else that ought to be noted is that the chairman of the Enfield school board, Greg Stokes, is the pastor of Cornerstone Church, a Protestant evangelical church in East Windsor CT (just south of Enfield) (cached version of page). First Cathedral in Bloomfield is also — you guessed it! — a Protestant evangelical church (cached version of page). I wonder, Pastor Stokes … could there possibly be a conflict of interest here? Maybe? Ya think? Hmm.

Let’s see: Dishonesty, and failure to admit to an obvious conflict of interest … yep, Chairman Stokes has managed to live down to all my expectations of fundamentalist Christians. Way to go, Pastor Greg!

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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First Cathedral (Baptist), Bloomfield, CTAfter months of simmering discontent, the Enfield, Connecticut school board has decided to defy an ACLU threat to sue them over their practice of holding high school graduations — in a church in another town. The Hartford Courant reports on the controversy and the anger the ACLU has sparked in this little New England mill town (WebCite cached article):

The board of education voted 6-3 Tuesday night to hold this year’s high school graduations at First Cathedral in Bloomfield and challenge a lawsuit threat by two civil liberties organizations.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State last year threatened to sue the district if it continued to hold ceremonies at First Cathedral.

The board insists this blatant and obvious violation of the separation of church and state board is all for the sake of the children, of course:

“We’re not picking a fight. We simply want to graduate and do honor to our students,” said Chairman Gregory Stokes. “The decision is based on the fiscal situation of the district and not the ideological situation of the district.”

What Stokes failed to disclose is that Enfield — which has two high schools (Enfield High School and Enrico Fermi High School) — used to have its graduations at on the field at one of them (Fermi), until last-minute vandalism in 2008 forced them to use First Cathedral as a stopgap measure. It’s understandable for this to happen once, under what are essentially emergency conditions. But the board insists they have “no viable secular alternative” … in spite of the fact that they had never had such a problem, prior to 2008!

They are, quite simply, lying.

What makes this very odd is that Enfield is in Connecticut, not the Bible belt, and is not home to a large number of fundamentalists. It’s much more Catholic than anything else, and Catholics in the US aren’t known for wanting to force their religion on people. So I’m not sure why, all of a sudden, Enfield’s board of education is so fiercely trying to proselytize its graduating high school seniors.

For those of you who think the separation of church and state — as declared in Article VI and the First Amendment of the US Constitution — applies only to the US Congress and not to the states or any other level of government such as a municipal school system, guess again: The 14th Amendment created a principle known as incorporation, which passes some restrictions on Congressional power down to other levels. So they cannot legitimately do this. All the whining about the ACLU being “bullies” is irrelevant compared to that. Completely irrelevant.

At any rate, the town of Enfield CT appears to have been taken over by Bible-thumping proselytizers who want to make sure they have one last shot at indoctrinating kids as they leave high school. Nice.

Photo credit: Tia Ann Chapman / Hartford Courant (12/12/2009)

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