A short update on some of our most important recent cases:
We recently prevailed in two cases against public-school districts that had been holding their high-school graduations in Evangelical Christian mega-churches. In each case, the graduation ceremonies took place in the intensely religious environment of a church sanctuary, where students received their diplomas underneath a giant cross.
In one case, against a Wisconsin school district, a federal district court ruled against us and a divided panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court's decision. But the full membership of the Seventh Circuit then reheard the case, ruled in our favor by a vote of 7 to 3, and prohibited the school from holding future graduations in the church.
In the other case, against a Connecticut school district, a federal district court issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the district’s 2010 graduations from proceeding at the church. We asked that court to make that injunction permanent, covering future graduations. In July, the parties resolved the lawsuit by a settlement, in which the school district agreed to stop holding graduation ceremonies in the church.
We brought a case against the Town Council of Greece, New York, which was opening its meetings with prayers offered by members of the local clergy. During the ten years in which the council has held the prayers, all but four of the invited clergy have been Christian.
After the federal district court in New York granted summary judgment to the council, we appealed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. In May, the Second Circuit unanimously reversed the district court and held that the prayer practice was unconstitutional.
We filed suit against Sussex County, Delaware, which for years has opened its County Council meetings with a recitation of the Lord's Prayer. After filing suit, we asked the federal district court in Delaware to issue a preliminary injunction; the County moved to dismiss the lawsuit. In May, the court granted our motion for a preliminary injunction, concluding that the recitation of the Lord's Prayer unlawfully promoted Christianity.
We are litigating a major legal challenge to a school-voucher program, taking place in Douglas County, Colorado and funded by the state government, that directs millions of dollars to religious schools.
After a three-day trial over the summer, the Denver County Circuit Court ruled that the school-voucher program violated multiple provisions of the Colorado Constitution. Both the state and the school district have appealed the court's decision; both sides recently filed their briefs with the Colorado Court of Appeals. Oral argument will take place in October.