AU received a complaint that, beginning in 2007, the city of Holladay had been providing funds and preferential access to government facilities for a performance of Handel’s "Messiah" during the Christmas season. In 2007 the city paid for a banner to advertise the production and for custodial personnel to staff the event. In 2008 the city provided an insurance certificate and funding for the stage crew. In both years, the production was allowed to use the auditorium of a local high-school for free, while other private groups were required to pay a fee to use the same space.
The principal of a North Carolina elementary school sent out a letter to parents advertising a Bible-based tutoring program and encouraging parents to enroll their students in that program. AU wrote to the school district and explained that it is unconstitutional for a school official to endorse a religious program.
The Mississippi Department of Human Services hosts an annual teen-abstinence summit called Abstinence Works — Let’s Talk About It! Over five thousand teenagers attended this year’s event, which began with an opening prayer and included a featured speaker who prominently quoted the Bible and explained that God ordered humanity to be abstinent. AU wrote to the Department of Human Services and explained that religious proselytizing at a state-sponsored event violates the separation of church and state.
AU learned that the visitor’s center in Death Valley National Park was allowing a park ranger to host a Christian worship service on park property that was not open for use by private parties. We wrote to the park superintendent to explain that governmental involvement in the presentation of a religious worship service is unconstitutional, and to ask that the worship service be discontinued or that the park allow private groups equal access to the park facility for secular activities. The park superintendent responded and informed us that the worship service had been discontinued.
AU received a complaint about a proposed event at a local high school that was to be led by the Todd Becker Foundation and was to involve both religious proselytizing and distribution of religious materials. We wrote to the school district and informed them that the event was improper under the First Amendment. The district chose to go forward with the assembly, but took concrete steps to ensure that no religious content or proselytizing was included in the event.
AU received a complaint that a high school in the St. Charles Parish Public School District held a mandatory faculty lunch which opened with a prayer delivered by a minister. We wrote to the district to explain that the inclusion of prayer at official school events is unconstitutional. The district responded that it would ensure that prayer would not be included in future school-sponsored activities.
AU received a complaint about a "Campus Life" religious club at Willow Glen Middle School that was being run at lunch-time by non-school personnel. These non-school persons were approaching students, distributing candy and stickers, and soliciting student participation in the club. We wrote to the school district, explaining that this behavior raised constitutional red flags and asking the district to investigate. They responded that it was against school policy for an outsider to run a student club and that they had been unaware that this was going on.
AU learned that the Hopkinsville City Council frequently began its meetings with sectarian Christian prayer. We wrote to the Council and explained that it is unconstitutional for a legislative body to begin meetings with sectarian prayer — only non-sectarian prayer is allowed. The Council’s attorney responded that he had advised the Council to have only non-sectarian prayer, and our complainant has attended several meetings since and confirmed that the Council has switched to non-sectarian prayers.
AU received a complaint that the Klamath Falls Union Gospel Mission — a homeless shelter that receives government funding — required shelter residents to attend daily devotional services in order to receive shelter benefits. We wrote to officials at Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS), the agency that administered the grant, and explained that homeless shelters may not require religious activities as a condition of services funded by government money.
The Boone County Board of Education hosts an annual awards ceremony for students. AU received a complaint that this event began with a prayer delivered by a Board member and that some members of the Board, when confronted by a parent about the prayer, responded in a hostile fashion. We wrote to the Board explaining that the prayer was unconstitutional and chastising the Board for its hostile response to a legitimate constitutional concern. A member of the Board who supports the separation of church and state contacted us and assured us that the matter would be dealt with.