Church service required to get a high school diploma

Filed under: Teens, Day Care & Education, Religion & Spirituality

Not once, not twice, but three times principal Richard Lopez sent out a notice stating that attendance at a baccalaureate service was mandatory for graduating seniors at Robertson High School in Las Vegas, New Mexico. For those not familiar with a baccalaureate (I wasn't), it is, according to wikipedia, an "event which features a speech or series of speeches given to a graduating senior class from a college or high school."

So what's the big deal, you ask? Wikipedia adds that "the speeches are often, but not necessarily, of a religious nature, almost invariably Christian." Given that the ceremony was to be held at Immaculate Conception Church and that an optional "senior mass" was also promoted in the notices, I suspect the event was indeed of a religious nature. I'll also mention that Robertson is a public high school, supposedly unaffiliated with Immaculate Conception or any other church.


The principal claims that attendance was actually optional and that students could avoid the requirement just by having a chat with him, but he seems to be the only one that knew that, what with the notices saying it was mandatory and all. Even if the event wasn't mandatory, however, the school still isn't off the hook.

"Mandatory or not, the school government in this case was taking on the role of a church and the mere fact that it had so entangled itself with this ceremony means that it was endorsing a particular religious belief," says Peter Simonson, head of the American Civil Liberties Union in New Mexico. "So even if the school had not advertised the event as mandatory, they wildly overstepped their bounds."

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the Public Education Department noted that the law in New Mexico says that students and teachers cannot "be required to attend or participate in any religious service whatsoever." The state is planning to investigate the situation.

I suppose that the principal thought this was perfectly okay since the majority of his students are probably Catholic and the rest of them, heathens and terrorists all, really don't matter. Except that that's against the rules.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.