The Enfield Board of Education (BOE) voted 6-3 Tuesday night to return graduation ceremonies to First Cathedral. This is a victory for religious liberty and common sense—and it would not have happened without the Family Institute of Connecticut (FIC)!

The BOE had previously voted to NOT hold graduations at First Cathedral. Enfield residents—including FIC members—persuaded the BOE to rescind that decision at a February meeting, putting all options back on the table. It was at this point that FIC swung into action.

We contacted the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), Archbishop LeRoy Bailey and BOE Chairman Greg Stokes. It was FIC’s involvement that brought these three parties into contact with each other for the first time.

Archbishop Bailey said the Cathedral wished to continue hosting the graduations, the ACLJ said they would represent Enfield pro bono if the town was sued and Chairman Stokes said that he would now support returning the graduations to First Cathedral.

Heartened by this progress, FIC began an e-mail campaign to the BOE asking them to go back to First Cathedral. But Mary Ann Turner, chairman of the Enfield Republican Town Committee, took to the airwaves to oppose FIC’s efforts. (Her motivations remain a mystery. When I called her, she refused to discuss it with me.)

By the day of the Mar. 23rd BOE meeting, inside sources were telling us we would lose by one vote. We responded by sending out an emergency e-mail blast seven hours before the meeting—and three dozen FIC members immediately called all nine members of the BOE.

Several of our members then called me and reported the feedback they were getting from the BOE, allowing me to target my speech specifically to the BOE’s concerns. That night, we turned certain defeat into a reprieve—the graduation vote was delayed until the BOE’s April 13th meeting.

In the intervening three weeks I met with several BOE members to address their concerns. We secured the votes necessary to return graduations to First Cathedral but did not reveal it publicly until Tuesday—when it was too late for our opponents to respond. Although some board members came under tremendous pressure in the hours after I appeared on the Dan Lovallo program Tuesday, they stuck to their commitment and voted for First Cathedral.

The BOE based its decision on fiscal—rather than constitutional—issues. Nevertheless, the drama playing out in Enfield affects religious liberty throughout Connecticut.

Having failed to get payback against the Catholic Church for its opposition to same-sex “marriage,” Connecticut’s cultural Left has now trained its personal vendetta on First Cathedral, a Protestant megachurch whose pastor, Archbishop LeRoy Bailey, fought hard for traditional marriage. The ACLU has bullied several communities into withdrawing their graduations from First Cathedral on the basis of very weak legal threats.

If Enfield had not resisted, it would have increased the power of aggressive secularism and caused further harm to the proper role of faith communities in our state. With Enfield’s willingness to stand up, others may now do the same. The message from Enfield is that people of faith will not be silent; we will stand up against efforts to bully or intimidate us.

FIC will continue to monitor the situation with First Cathedral—and we are monitoring several other potential threats to religious liberty. Watch for more information.

We thank God for Tuesday’s victory. We thank our members who called, wrote, prayed and attended the BOE meetings. We thank our allies: the ACLJ, for being willing to represent Enfield and FRC Action, for alerting its own Connecticut membership. And we thank Chairman Greg Stokes, whose steady support made last night’s victory possible.

3 Responses to “Enfield Victory: The Inside Story”

  1. on 05 May 2010 at 1:11 pmed Gawlinski

    This seems like a battle between the ACLU and the ACLJ in which the Enfield BOE is a helpless pawn and the wishes seniors at the two high schools in Enfield are irrelevant.

  2. […] The ACLU says this reversal was a result of intense lobbying on the part of The Family Institute of Connecticut, a conservative political organization headed by Peter Wolfgang.  Wolfgang, for his part, takes a healthy amount of credit for the Board’s decision to return to Cathedral. […]

  3. […] the 2010 Enfield graduations battle, when FIC scored a victory for the principle that the First Amendment requires churches be treated equal to other […]

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