A middle-school student in the Taconic Hills Central School District in New York was invited to deliver a speech at the school's graduation ceremony. After she submitted a draft of her speech to school administrators for their approval, the school notified her that she was not permitted to conclude the speech with a religious message.
In June 2011, the City of South Bend approved a plan to purchase a piece of land for $1.2 million and donate it to a Catholic school (St. Joseph's High School) to use for a football stadium and other athletic facilities. The religious school was handpicked by the City to receive the land, and the City permitted the school to use the land for religious purposes, including prayers at athletic events.
A group called Friends of the Cross received $20,000 from the Illinois legislature to refurbish Bald Knob Cross, which the group claims is the largest cross in the western hemisphere. The earmark was awarded by a state senator out of what is essentially a legislative slush fund, and the earmark required the executive branch to provide the taxpayer funds.
For decades, the City of Lakeland has opened its Commission meetings with prayers delivered by invited clergy. And for twenty-five years, these speakers were selected from a list containing clergy from exclusively Christian denominations; the invited Christian clergy typically delivered Christian prayers. After the plaintiffs complained in March 2010, the City expanded its list of invited clergy to include other denominations.
In May 2011, we learned that the Medina Valley School District in Castroville, Texas intended to sponsor at least two student-led prayers at its upcoming high-school graduation.
In May 2011, Indiana enacted the "Choice Scholarship Program," a program in which the State provides vouchers for Indiana schoolchildren to attend private schools, including religious schools. Participating schools may deny admission to students on the basis of religious practice or belief. And students may be required to receive religious instruction and attend religious services.
For years, the Sussex County Council opened its public meetings with a Council member reciting the Lord's Prayer. Americans United wrote to the County Council in June 2008, and again in April 2009, asking the Council to stop opening its meetings with the Lord's Prayer because the Constitution prohibits legislative prayers used to advance one religion. The County did not respond to either letter.
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.