AU learned that an elementary-school teacher in the Appleton Area School District organized and led a student gospel choir. The teacher also arranged for the choir to perform at a gospel concert at a nearby church. AU wrote a letter, explaining that, while such a choir might be permissible if it were student-run and student-initiated, by spearheading and actively participating in the group, the teacher had transformed the choir and the concert into official school activities that violated the Establishment Clause. AU requested that the District cancel the choir’s participation in the gos
AU received several complaints that the Jackson Mills Fire Company was using firefighters and a fire truck to transport a statue of “Our Lady of America, the Immaculate Virgin” (an Americanized version of the Virgin Mary) from church to church as part of a national tour of cathedrals that was set to culminate in the statue being installed permanently at the National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. AU sent a letter to the fire company, explaining that its conduct impermissibly endorsed religion.
Several people contacted AU to complain about a modesty fashion show co-sponsored by the Kimberly Area School District and Pure Freedom, an Evangelical Christian organization that aims to “equip men and women . . . to experience a vibrant, passionate marriage which portrays the love Christ has for his Bride the church.” The program, entitled “Secret Keeper Girl — The Bod Squad Tour,” was geared toward schoolgirls in grades three through six, and included a faith-based message as well as performances by Christian musicians.
AU learned that the Akron City Council opened its meetings by reciting The Lord’s Prayer. AU wrote a letter to the Council, explaining that the Establishment Clause forbids legislative bodies from using sectarian prayer. The Council responded to AU’s letter by announcing that it would cease opening meetings with The Lord’s Prayer and use a nonsectarian invocation instead.
AU received complaints that the headmaster of the Washington Latin School — a public charter school — repeatedly made religious comments at his morning meetings with students, led students in prayer at convocations, and invited members of the clergy to deliver prayers at graduation ceremonies.
Ben Gamla Charter School is a public charter school that offers a Hebrew-immersion program to students. In a letter objecting to the school’s use of a Hebrew-language textbook that contained numerous religious references, AU explained that, although it is permissible to teach Hebrew as a foreign language, it is constitutionally impermissible to do so using religiously themed instructional materials. AU’s letter requested that the school select a different textbook and review the remainder of its Hebrew-language curriculum to ensure that it is free of similar religious content.
AU received complaints regarding a religious affirmation written on the classroom whiteboard at a high school on a U.S. military base in Seoul, South Korea. The affirmation stated, "When we draw near to God, our minds are refreshed and our strength is renewed." In a letter to school officials, AU explained that the affirmation, which was visible to students, was inappropriate in a government-funded school. According to our complainants, after receiving our letter, the teacher erased the affirmation from the whiteboard and has not repeated the violation.
AU received a complaint about the Iowa City Community School District’s “Optimist Club Good Reader Program,” which encourages reading among students in the third and fourth grades. Upon completion of the program, students received a recognition card stating, among other promises, that they would “acknowledge that belief in God gives purpose to life.” AU wrote a letter to the District, informing officials that encouraging students to avow a belief in God violates the Establishment Clause.
AU learned that members of the Gideons were permitted to set up a table to distribute New Testament Bibles to elementary-school students during the school day. The school even altered students’ routes to and from classes in order to allow students to pick up the Bibles. In a letter to the school, AU explained that federal courts have routinely held such distributions to be unconstitutional, especially when targeted at elementary-school students. The District decided the following week that the Gideons would no longer be allowed to distribute Bibles at the school.
AU received a complaint that Iowa State University was considering a proposal to hire a full-time chaplain for its football team. According to news reports, the university’s football coach, who authored the proposal, told the Fellowship of Christian Athletes that he was motivated by his own relationship with Christ.