Shareef v. Newark Public Schools

On March 7, 2007, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey filed a lawsuit against the Newark Public Schools for violating a Muslim student's religious freedom by holding West Side High School's 2006 graduation ceremony in the sanctuary of a Baptist church. Bilal Shareef, a 2006 graduating senior and honor student who is Muslim, was unable to attend his graduation because the school's decision to hold graduation in a church forced him to choose between missing graduation or violating his religious proscription against entering buildings with religious iconography, such as pictures of God or the cross.

The lawsuit alleges that the school's actions of awarding benefits to students for attending the Catholic religious ceremony and holding the graduation ceremony in a Baptist church violated the New Jersey Constitution's prohibitions against: showing a preference for certain religious sects over others, compelling people to "attend any place of worship contrary to his faith and judgment" and segregating or discriminating against students "in the public schools, because of [their] religious principles."

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