AU received a complaint about prayers occurring at Hopkins County School District events, including Board of Education meetings and annual district-wide in-service events. We wrote to the district superintendent to explain that prayer at public-school events is unconstitutional. The school district’s attorney wrote back to inform us that both practices would be stopped.
The Township of Montville erected a holiday display on the lawn of the Montville Municipal Building. The display prominently featured a créche and a menorah near the front of the Municipal Building. AU wrote a letter to the town and explained that it is unconstitutional for the government to display religious items unless they are integrated into a larger secular display. The township responded to our letter by erecting several secular holiday decorations, including a snowman and a nutcracker.
AU learned that a créche and menorah were displayed on the lawn of the Luzerne County Courthouse. AU and the ACLU of Pennsylvania wrote a joint letter to county officials explaining that the government may not display religious symbols unless they are a part of a larger display that communicates a secular holiday message. In response, both displays were promptly removed.
AU received a complaint about the Village of Saukville’s display of a créche on government property. We wrote a letter to the village explaining that it is unconstitutional for the government to display a religious symbol on public property when the religious symbol stands alone or is predominant. We received a response that the village had removed the créche within six days of receipt of our letter.
AU received a complaint from a man seeking a modified Oath of Allegiance for Naturalized Citizens because he objected to swearing "so help me God." Despite several written requests to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), when he appeared at his swearing-in ceremony, he was not given the option of an alternative oath and was removed from the ceremony. He then met with two USCIS officials, who hinted that his application would be reviewed again and potentially denied as a result of his refusal to take the standard oath.
AU learned that a Christian prison ministry was pursuing plans to open a privately-owned prison in Oklahoma. The ministry then planned to seek a contract with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections to house inmates at this facility, which would require inmates to participate in religious activities. We sent a letter to the Department of Corrections noting that any such contract would likely violate the separation of church and state.
An employee of the Phoenix V.A. Health Care System was including four proselytizing quotations from the Bible in her official e-mail messages. AU wrote to her supervisor and explained that the inclusion of religious messages in official government communications violates the separation of church and state. We received no official response, but our complainant informed us that the religious quotations have been removed.
AU received a complaint that a school superintendent in Pennsylvania participated in a See You at the Pole event in his professional capacity — delivering opening remarks and praying with the assembled students. We wrote to the district, explaining that school officials may be present at such events to monitor students behavior, but that they may not participate in religious activity.
AU received a complaint that a public high school was holding its graduation in a local church. We wrote to the school district to explain that the Establishment Clause prohibits the holding of public-school graduation ceremonies in churches. The school district responded and agreed to seek a secular venue for its graduations in upcoming years.
AU learned that the superintendent of a Texas school district participated in a National Day of Prayer breakfast in his official capacity, and that he had invited a choir and color guard from two of the schools in his district to participate in the same event. We wrote to the district and explained that both the participation of the superintendent in his official capacity and the coercion of students to participate in a religious event violate the Constitution.