Sep 15, 2011

Many participants in the federal government’s AmeriCorps national-service program serve as teachers at parochial schools, where they often teach religion classes and lead students in prayer. These AmeriCorps participants are eligible to receive a $4,725 "service award" for their work. The AmeriCorps program also gives $400 grants to religious organizations for each program participant trained by the organizations and placed by them at sectarian schools. A federal district court declared the program unconstitutional, and the government appealed. In November 2004, AU, joined by several allied groups, filed a friend-of-the-court brief asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to uphold the district court’s ruling that the program violates the Establishment Clause. Unfortunately, on March 8, 2005, a panel of the Court ruled 3-0 against the plaintiffs, reasoning that the program was akin to a voucher program and that the Supreme Court has approved the reimbursement of religious organizations for the administrative costs of participating in a government program. The plaintiffs then filed a petition for rehearing, which the court denied. The plaintiffs filed a petition for certiorari on August 30, 2005, but it was denied in mid-January 2006.