Sweet Grass County High School had a tradition of allowing a local ministerial association to distribute Bibles to students at the school’s graduation ceremony. Graduates would receive their diplomas on stage and then were immediately offered a Bible by representatives of the association. AU was informed that, in response to a student’s complaint, the school’s Board of Trustees would be considering whether or not to change the policy. We wrote to the Board to explain that the distribution was unconstitutional and should be discontinued.
AU received a complaint that a student at Andrews High School had led attendees at a mandatory assembly for Black History Month in a prayer. We wrote a letter to the district explaining that prayer at public-school programs and events is unconstitutional and asking the district to take corrective action. The district responded, explaining that it recognized that the prayer was impermissible and assuring us that it would not happen again.
AU received a complaint that New Berlin Eisenhower High School had held its 2008 graduation ceremony in an evangelical Christian church and that it planned to use the same venue for its 2009 graduation. The church is replete with religious iconography, including a large cross that hangs directly over the stage where graduates would have received their diplomas. We wrote to the school district to explain that holding a high-school graduation in a church is unconstitutional and to request that the district move the graduation to a secular venue.
Nia Community Public Charter School (NCPCS) held a school-sponsored African Naming Ceremony at its campus in Washington, D.C. School staff were required to attend. The ceremony was presided over by a priest, who said prayers and made spiritual offerings. In response to a complaint, AU wrote a letter to the school’s board of trustees, explaining that school-sponsored religious ceremonies are unconstitutional and that school employees could not be required to attend religious ceremonies.
AU received a complaint that an employee of the Georgia Department of Transportation was including in all of his official e-mails an image of a cross and a lengthy proselytizing message. We wrote to the Georgia Department of Transporation and explained that the inclusion of religious messages in official government e-mail raised serious constitutional concerns. An attorney for the Department responded and informed us that it had instructed the employee to remove the messages from his official e-mails and that he had complied.
An employee of the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development Office’s human resources department was including a religious message in the signature line of all the official e-mails that she sent during the course of her work. The message read: “The evidence of God’s presence far outweighs the proof of his absence.” AU wrote to USDA Rural Development and objected to the use of official e-mail to communicate a proselytizing message.
The city of Avon Lake placed a message on a sign in front of its City Hall stating, “Remember Christ is in Christmas.” AU wrote a letter objecting to the message. Within a few days, the city removed the message from the sign.
AU learned that Climax Springs Elementary School had taken its students on a field trip to the Orion Center and its DinoSpace Adventure theme park. Both the Orion Center and DinoSpace Adventure teach creationism in the guise of science, and AU informed the school district that the teaching of creationism or intelligent design to public-school students is unconstitutional. We have been informed by the district superintendent that he will not approve any further field trips to the Orion Center or DinoSpace Adventure.
AU received a complaint that employees in the lobby of the Fort Smith Department of Human Services Office had placed home-made signs with Bible verses in plain view of the public, and that Bibles and other religious items were prominently displayed at the office where the public could see them. AU objected to these policies in a November 2008 letter and requested removal of the displays. We were contacted in December 2008 by the Department of Human Services’ attorney, who informed us that the agency had removed the Bibles and the religious signs.
The head football coach at Keystone Oaks High School led prayers with his team before and after practices, and when the team ate meals together. We sent a letter to the school district, complaining about this practice. Although we did not receive a direct response from the district, our complainant’s son, who is on the football team, confirmed that by the end of the season, the prayers had been replaced with a moment of silent meditation.