DOES 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 v. Enfield Pub. Sch.

Decision Date31 May 2010
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 3:10-CV-685 (JCH).
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Connecticut
PartiesDOES 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, Plaintiffs, v. ENFIELD PUBLIC SCHOOLS, Defendant.

716 F.Supp.2d 172

DOES 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, Plaintiffs,

Civil Action No. 3:10-CV-685 (JCH).

United States District Court,D. Connecticut.

May 31, 2010.

716 F.Supp.2d 173
716 F.Supp.2d 174

Alex J. Luchenitser, Ayesha N. Khan, Devin M. Cain, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Daniel Mach, Sandra J. Staub, American Civil Liberties Union, Washington, DC, David J. McGuire, American Civil Liberties Union, Hartford, CT, for Plaintiffs.

Ann-Louise Lohr, Vincent P. McCarthy, American Center for Law & Justice, Litchfield, CT, Carly F. Gammill, Larry L. Crain, American Center for Law & Justice, Brentwood, TN, Thomas R. Gerarde, Howd & Ludorf, Hartford, CT, Martin A. Clayman, Michael Hafkin, Clayman, Tapper & Baram, LLC, Bloomfield, CT, Joel L. Oster, Alliance Defense Fund, Johnson County, KS, Michael J. Deprimo, Hamden, CT, for Defendant.

716 F.Supp.2d 175


JANET C. HALL, District Judge.


Plaintiffs, Doe 1 and Doe 3, are students at Enfield High School. They brought this action on May 14, 2010, together with their parents, Does 2, 4, and 5 (collectively “Does”), seeking, inter alia, a preliminary injunction prohibiting the defendant, Enfield Public Schools, from conducting the 2010 graduation ceremonies for the two Enfield high schools at First Cathedral (sometimes “the Cathedral”), a Christian church. See Complaint (“Cmplt.”) (Doc. No. 1). The Does allege that holding graduation ceremonies at the Cathedral violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article Seventh of the Connecticut Constitution. 1 The graduation ceremonies are currently scheduled for June 23 and June 24, 2010.

A hearing on the Motion for Preliminary Injunction (Doc. No. 5) was held on May 24 and May 25, 2010. By request of counsel, the court, along with counsel and members of the public, visited First Cathedral on May 25, 2010, to view it. Oral argument was held on May 27, 2010.

Pursuant to Rule 52 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the court's findings of fact and conclusions of law are set forth below. Based upon its findings, the court concludes, on the record before it, that the Does have clearly demonstrated a likelihood of irreparable harm in the absence of the injunction and a substantial likelihood of success on the merits that holding the graduation ceremonies at First Cathedral violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.


Defendant Enfield Public Schools (sometimes “Enfield Schools”) is a municipal school district. It is a corporate body that maintains control of all public schools within the geographic limits of the Town of Enfield. 3 The Enfield Board of Education (“the Board”) is an elected body that has final policy-making authority and control over the Enfield schools. The Board consists of nine members, who are elected every two-years. Four of its nine current members were newly elected in November 2009. The Chair of the Board is elected by fellow Board Members. Greg Stokes currently serves as Chair.

Enfield Schools operates two high-schools: Enfield High School (“Enfield High”) and Enrico Fermi High School (“Fermi High”). Enfield High's 2010 senior class has approximately 202 students. Fermi High's 2010 senior class has approximately 249 students.

Doe 1 is a student and member of the class of 2010 at Enfield High School. 4 See

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Decl. of Doe 1 (Exh. 5) at ¶ 2. Doe 1 is agnostic and will likely not attend his/her graduation if it is held at First Cathedral. S/he attended the 2009 ceremonies held at First Cathedral, perceived a “pervasively religious environment,” and concluded that “it would be difficult, if not impossible, for me to attend my own graduation if it were held at the Cathedral.” Id. at ¶¶ 17, 18. Doe 2 is Doe 1's parent and a resident of the Town of Enfield. See Decl. of Doe 2 (Exh. 6) at ¶ 1. Doe 2 does not subscribe to the Christian faith. Id. at ¶ 6. If Doe 1 decides not to attend graduation, Doe 2 feels s/he will be “deprived of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to celebrate my child's high-school graduation.” Id. at ¶ 5. If Doe 1 does decide to attend graduation, Doe 2 feels s/he will be “forced to submit to a religious environment that ... will make me feel extremely uncomfortable and offended” and that “religious beliefs to which I do not subscribe are being imposed on me.” Id. at ¶ 6.

Doe 3 is also a student and member of the class of 2010 at Enfield High School. See Decl. of Doe 3 (Exh. 7) at ¶ 2. Doe 3 subscribes to the Jewish faith and will not attend the graduation ceremony if it is held at First Cathedral because s/he would “feel that the Cathedral is proselytizing its Christian beliefs ... through its scriptures and symbols.” Id. at ¶¶ 3, 8, 12. Doe 4 is a parent of Doe 3. See Decl. of Doe 4 (Exh. 8) at ¶ 1. Doe 4 does not have firm religious beliefs and has declared that s/he would “feel like an outsider if I attend graduation at First Cathedral, as I feel that when one steps into someone else's church, one gets the feeling that one should be part of their religion.” Id. at ¶¶ 2, 3. Doe 5 is Doe 3's step-parent. See Decl. of Doe 5 (Exh. 9) at ¶ 1. Doe 5 has declared that s/he “will be deprived of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to celebrate Doe 3's graduation” because Doe 3 will not attend graduation if it is held at First Cathedral. Id. at ¶ 2.

B. First Cathedral 5

First Cathedral is a Christian church in Bloomfield, Connecticut. The pastor at First Cathedral is Archbishop LeRoy Bailey, Jr. (“Bailey”), who took an active role in designing the church. The Cathedral has the capacity to seat three thousand (3000) individuals in its main sanctuary.

In front of the Cathedral, a large sign is prominently displayed on the corner of Blue Hills Avenue and Wintonbury Avenue. It states, in large letters, “First Cathedral.” 6 A very large cross rises above a stained glass cupola on top of the Cathedral's roof. This cross is visible from all angles of the Cathedral's surroundings. The cross is a symbol of the Christian faith of the members of the Cathedral. Stipulations (“Stip.”) (Doc. No. 71) at ¶ 17. The images portrayed in the stained-glass panels of the cupola are not readily identifiable from ground level.

Although there are numerous side exits to the Cathedral, there is one main entrance

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to the Cathedral that leads to a large lobby. Above the main entrance doors, there is a large cross (approximately 25 feet high and 10 feet wide) embedded within the window panes. Exh. 1-11. A hexagonal figure surrounds the upper part of the cross, and the window panels on the inside of the hexagonal figure are stained-glass and depict a group of people with arms raised towards the sun that is casting down light beams from above. Exhs. 1-10, 1-11, 1-12.

After entering the Cathedral, students and family members attending graduation ceremonies pass through the Cathedral's lobby. Some students and families also gather in the lobby before or after the ceremonies. The cross over the front door is visible from inside the lobby. The lobby of First Cathedral contains stairs that lead down to the main sanctuary. These stairs are divided by a large fountain that could be perceived to be a representational shape of a tomb. Exh. 1-13. The jets that supply the water in the fountain are arranged in the shape of a cross; there are seven vertical jets, and four horizontal jets that cut across the vertical jets in a similar manner to that in which the horizontal beam of a cross intersects with the cross's vertical beam. Id. The lobby also contains a gift shop of Christian items. There are also large banners hung in the lobby, which, during the 2009 graduations, contained religious messages. One banner has quoted Psalms 100:4: “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.” Exh. 1-16.

From the lobby, students and parents attending the 2010 graduation ceremonies will proceed either down the lobby stairs to the main level of the sanctuary, or up the lobby stairs to the balcony level. Exh. 1-13. A large hallway spans the entire circumference of both the lower and upper levels of the sanctuary, and those attending graduation will have to enter this hallway in order to enter the main level of the sanctuary or the balcony. Both the lower and upper hallways, as well as the lobby walls, contain many artistic wall hangings. Although some of the wall hangings can be characterized as secular, the majority of the hangings contain content that is religious, and plainly Christian. 7 There are, for example, numerous pictures depicting biblical scenes, such as the birth of Jesus Christ. On the first floor, there is a framed poster of the Lord's Prayer. Other pictures may also be characterized as religious, though their religious character is more subtle. In addition, a large number of the wall hangings contain permanent metal placards on their frames; these placards quote biblical passages and cite to passages from the Psalms, the Gospel, or the Proverbs.

From the hallways, those attending the 2010 graduation enter the main sanctuary. This main sanctuary is where religious services are performed, and where the main graduation ceremonies will take place. The sanctuary is vast, with a large number of individual, cushioned seats on both the main level and the balcony. There are numerous video displays that can stream live video of the graduation ceremony, or pre-recorded material. The actual ceremonies will take place on the stage of the sanctuary, which is slightly elevated from the main level. Exh. 1-25.

On the carpet on the floor in front of the main stage are seven images. These images are of a fire, a fish, a lion, a shepherd's

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hand and staff, a lamb, a lily, and a chalice. Exhs. 1-25-1-32. These...

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2 cases
  • Doe v. Elmbrook Sch. Dist.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • September 9, 2011
    ...Church, which, they believe, sends a message of favoritism. To that end, they point to Does 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5 v. Enfield Public Schools, 716 F.Supp.2d 172 (D.Conn.2010), which held that the staging of graduation in a church violated the Establishment Clause. In Enfield, however, there was sig......
  • Aclu-tn v. Sumner County Bd. of Education, 3-11-0408
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Tennessee
    • May 3, 2011
    ...religion. See Porta v. Klagholz, 19 F.Supp.2d 290, 301-02 (D. N.J. 1998). The case cited by Plaintiffs, Does v. Enfield Public Schools, 716 F.Supp.2d 172 (D. Conn. 2010), is plainly distinguishable from this case. In Enfield, the church at issue was a cathedral with an enormous cross on the......

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