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.
AU received a complaint about a Buddhist stupa that was displayed at the Petroglyph National Monument. The stupa was on the land when the land was purchased by the federal government, and had been maintained there since. AU asked that the stupa be moved to private property. The Department of the Interior investigated and concluded that the display of the stupa on government land was unconstitutional. The government accordingly transferred the stupa to the Albuquerque Buddhist community.
The DinoSpace Museum in Camdenton, MO is a creationist-themed “science” museum geared towards children. AU learned that an army-run school for children of soldiers stationed at Fort Leonard Wood took a field trip to the museum. We wrote a letter of complaint about this event. The Army Installation Management command informed us that the organizers of the field trip were not aware of the museum’s focus before the trip and agreed that no future field trips would be made to the museum. They also agreed to be more careful in evaluating future field-trip locations.
AU received a complaint regarding a program under which Multnomah County judges—as part of a joint venture between the court, the County District Attorney’s office, and the City of Portland—conditioned criminal offenders’ eligibility for probation on attendance of meetings with local pastors. In response to our letter, the program was expanded so that offenders are now provided the opportunity to meet with a variety of individuals, including non-religious community members, and all participants are prohibited from proselytizing as part of the program.
The City of St. Charles organized, funded, and advertised a Christmas Festival that included a live re-enactment of the story of Christ’s birth. AU wrote to the City to explain that City sponsorship of this religious activity is unconstitutional and to ask that the City remove the activity from the Festival. Although the City did not remove the re-enactment entirely, it did revoke all government funding of the event and took steps to clarify that the re-enactment was sponsored by a private group and not by the City.
High-school track coaches wore to a track meet t-shirts adorned with the logo of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (which contains a Latin cross) alongside the name of the school. AU wrote to the school to explain that it is unconstitutional for public-school employees to promote a religious organization. The school investigated and explained that the shirts had been worn on only one occasion because they were a bright color and were intended to help students locate the coaches. The school assured us it would not happen again.
AU received a complaint about a large cross, inscribed with the phrase “Jesus Saves,” that stood on public land at the entrance to the Town of Dugger. We wrote to the town to explain that it is unconstitutional for the town to display a religious symbol and message on government property. The Town organized an auction and sold the property, at fair market value, to a private party.
The Strength Team participated in an assembly hosted by an elementary school. They used the assembly as an opportunity to invite students to an after-school church event. AU wrote to the school to explain that allowing the Strength Team to use an official school event to solicit student participation in a religious activity violates the Establishment Clause. The school did not respond to our letter, but there have been no further such assemblies.
AU learned that the religious-right organization Liberty Counsel had contacted the City of Santa Monica regarding the City Council’s deliberations over whether to continue to allow holiday displays in a public park during the holidays. AU wrote to the Council to debunk Liberty Counsel’s legal arguments and to urge the Council to either maintain the then-current display policy — which provided equal opportunity for anyone to place a holiday display in the park, regardless of whether the display had a religious viewpoint — or to close the forum altogether.
A student at Poteet High School contacted AU to complain that the school was planning to include school-sponsored invocation and benediction prayers at an upcoming graduation ceremony. Moreover, school administrators had instructed two students that they were expected to deliver these prayers, and that the students had to submit the proposed prayers for approval by the school. AU objected to this practice, explaining that there were numerous constitutional problems with it, not the least of which was coercing students into delivering prayers against their will.