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U.S. Supreme Court asked to rule on Elmbrook schools graduation case

BROOKFIELD - The U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to decide whether two Brookfield high schools violated the Constitution, when they held graduation ceremonies in a large church.

The Elmbrook School District has filed a petition asking the justices to consider a federal appeals court ruling from August. It said Brookfield East and Central high schools violated the separation of church-and-state, when it held its commencements in the double-decked Elmbrook Church during most of the last decade. The appeals court sided with the Americans United for the Separation of Church-and-State, saying that a giant cross and other symbols in the church sent a message that the government was endorsing a particular religion.

School officials said it was a moot point at the time, because the ceremonies were being moved to a newly-built field-house. In late August, the School Board voted 5-2 to ask the Supreme Court to throw out the church-and-state argument. The two dissenters did not believe the district would win its case. But School Board president Tom Gehl said if the district didn't appeal, it would be an admission that thousands who took part in the church commencements violated the Constitution. There's only about a two-percent chance that the Supreme Court will take the case, based on the numbers of cases it rejects.