AU received a complaint that a public charter school’s graduation ceremony featured two prayers delivered by a teacher, and that the school took steps to plan a baccalaureate service, although it did not go through with it. AU wrote to explain that the prayers were unconstitutional and that the school would have violated the Constitution had it held or sponsored a baccalaureate ceremony. The school responded to thank us for the information and to inform us that it had used our letter to update its policies and instruct its staff to no longer engage in these activities.
Bullock Creek High School holds an annual senior-lunch event for graduating students in the top 10% of the class. AU learned that this event had, in previous years, included a prayer delivered by the Superintendent, the Principal, or a student selected by a school administrator. AU wrote a letter of complaint and, in response, the school agreed that future senior-lunch events and other school events would be free of prayers or other religious content.
The mayor of Lilburn regularly said prayers to Jesus Christ during informational town-hall meetings with citizens. AU wrote to explain that such prayers were not permissible and to ask that they be discontinued. The mayor agreed not to pray at future town-hall meetings and not to deliver prayers at other, similar events
The City of McAlester placed cross displays on several street signs throughout the city, but then removed those displays after concerns were raised regarding separation of church and state. AU learned that the City Council would be considering a petition to return those crosses to its street signs and wrote to the Council to urge it to decline that request. After much deliberation, the Council declined to re-erect the cross displays.
AU received complaints about a large cross standing in a public park owned by the City of Riverside. We wrote to the City to explain that it is unconstitutional for the government to display a cross on public property. The City agreed to sell the property to a private buyer pursuant to a neutral bidding process at auction.
The Supervisor of Elections in Bushnell made it a practice to begin election-worker training sessions with a prayer. AU wrote to the Supervisor and informed her that it is unconstitutional for a government employee to include a prayer as part of such a training session. After consultation with attorneys, the Supervisor agreed to stop the prayer practice.
A charter school in Texas held its classes in a church which included uncovered religious iconography in the common areas used by the school. AU wrote a letter of complaint to the school and to the Texas Education Agency. The school subsequently agreed to remove all iconography in common areas and classroom areas used by students.
AU received a complaint that the 2012 graduation ceremony of a county elementary school featured a proselytizing speech delivered by an Assistant Superintendent. Among other things, he noted that the school instills “the love of God” in students; stated “I know I’m not supposed to preach, but I’m a Christian first and an employee second;” and encouraged students to attend church. In response to our letter of complaint, the school system agreed to ensure that future graduations would not feature this type of activity.
A charter school in California was using church property to host some of its official activities, including the administration of standardized tests. The rooms used by the church were replete with religious iconography. AU wrote to the school’s administration to explain that charter schools must follow the same constitutional guidelines as any other public school, and asked them to ensure that students not be exposed to iconography in the future.
A high-school music production class conducted a fundraiser for a local religious homeless-services organization. AU wrote to the school to explain that school-district affiliation with and financial support of a religious organization is unconstitutional. The school agreed to have teachers undertake a more thorough vetting procedure for potential beneficiaries of school fundraisers to ensure that this does not happen again.