Chandler v. James

Last modified 2011.09.15

  • Status Closed
  • Type Counsel
  • Court U.S. Court of Appeals, U.S. District Court
  • Issues Public Schools, Religious Minorities, Teaching Religion in Public Schools

On February 1, 1996, AU and the Alabama ACLU challenged Alabama’s “Student-Initiated Prayer Statute” as well as a wide range of officially sponsored religious activities taking place in the DeKalb and Talladega County Public Schools, including student and clergy prayer in the classrooms, in school assemblies, at graduations, and at sporting events. The suit also challenged excessive school involvement in Bible distribution by the Gideons.

Talladega County settled, but the other defendants did not. On March 12, 1997, the district court found the statute unconstitutional. Then, in late October and early November 1997, the court issued a permanent injunction prohibiting a wide range of religious activity.

The state, represented by Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice, appealed a portion of the injunction that prohibited school officials from “permitting” students to engage in religious speech in certain contexts and, on July 13, 1999, the Eleventh Circuit vacated the entire injunction as restricting student free speech rights.

Thereafter, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated and remanded the Circuit’s decision in light of Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe. On remand, the Circuit reaffirmed its earlier holding, finding it to be consistent with Santa Fe. On April 13, 2001, the Circuit denied rehearing en banc and, on June 18, 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the plaintiffs’ petition for certiorari. We received an award of costs and attorneys’ fees, and the case is now concluded.

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