The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) regulates employee-benefit plans to protect the interests of employees who participate in these plans. To avoid undue governmental intrusion in church affairs, the Act provides an exemption for plans established by churches. Some non-church entities have begun to claim this exemption.
For years, the Greece Town Board has invited clergy to open the Board’s monthly meetings with a prayer. Over the past decade, all but two of the guest chaplains have been Christian, and the vast majority of prayers have been explicitly Christian. Guest chaplains often ask citizens to join in the prayers, and citizens face considerable pressure to participate. In February 2008, we filed a lawsuit on behalf of two local citizens, alleging that the Town’s practices violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
For nearly a decade, the Elmbrook School District near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, held its high-school graduation ceremonies in the sanctuary of an evangelical Christian church. A cross towered over the dais -- upon which graduation speakers addressed the audience and graduating seniors received their diplomas.