After learning that the Worcester City Council planned to discuss the legality of opening meetings with prayers delivered by local clergy, AU wrote a letter to the Council, advising it of the constitutional boundaries within which legislative prayer must take place. The Council decided to continue allowing nonsectarian prayers, and instructed the city clerk, who invites the clergy members to offer the invocation, to inform clergy that prayers must be nonsectarian.
AU received a complaint that the Yadkin County Board of Commissioners frequently opened meetings with Christian invocations. In a letter to the Board, AU explained that legislative bodies may not use language specific to any faith in opening their sessions with prayer. The letter asked the Board to take steps to ensure that future prayers at Board meetings are nonsectarian. Although one commissioner attempted, after receiving AU’s letter, to convince other Board members to enact a formal policy allowing sectarian prayers, the proposal was rejected.
AU learned that the Howell Public Schools Board of Education was considering adopting a Bible curriculum designed by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools — a private religious organization created to spread the Christian faith. AU wrote a letter to the Board, informing officials that the National Council on Bible Curriculum is run by leaders of the Religious Right, including those who advocate an extreme vision of theocratic government based on a literal reading of the Bible.
After receiving several opinion letters from a local law firm advising that it would be legally permissible to hold high-school graduation ceremonies in churches, the Montgomery County School Board decided to revisit its policy requiring Montgomery County high schools to hold graduations in secular venues. AU wrote a letter to the Board, correcting several misstatements of law made in the opinion letters, and informing the Board that its current policy was the only way to protect students’ First Amendment rights.
The City of Columbiana erected a nativity display on city-owned property, with no secular decorations nearby to offset the religious message of the display. Our complainant wrote a letter to the mayor to complain about the constitutionality of the display. The mayor read a portion of the letter during a session of the City Council and then, upon reaching a part of the letter where the writer acknowledged being an atheist, he tore the letter in half and threw it in the garbage.
AU received a complaint that a choral teacher at a Virginia Beach high school had arranged a mandatory choral performance of four religious songs at her church’s Sunday-morning worship service. AU wrote a letter to the district superintendent, principal, and school board, explaining that requiring students to attend and participate in religious services is impermissible under the Establishment Clause. A few hours after receiving AU’s letter, the District's attorney informed AU that the performance at the church had been cancelled.
AU received a complaint that the City of Fairfax planned to purchase property in nearby Falls Church for use by the Lamb Center, a religious provider of social services to the homeless. Because the Lamb Center was unable to afford the $2.6 million parcel of land, the City intended to rent it to the Center for $5000 per month — far below the market rate — until the Center could raise funds to purchase the property from the City. In addition, the City planned to appropriate $500,000 to support the Center.
AU received a complaint regarding a planned “Power Team” assembly at a junior high school.
AU received a complaint that an elementary-school teacher regularly recited a lunchtime prayer with her students during which she thanked God for their food. In a letter to the school district, AU explained that, although students may voluntarily join together for prayer, the Establishment Clause prohibits public-school staff from initiating or taking part in religious activities with students.
AU received a complaint that a public high school in Texas was promoting (and effectively planning to operate) a Christian abstinence-only education program at two local churches. The seven-week course, entitled “True Love Waits,” requires students to commit to God and pledge sexual purity until they enter a Bible-based marriage.