The Alaska School Activities Association organized and ran wrestling tournaments for all public and some private schools in Alaska. In 2013, the Association held the state wrestling tournament at the campus of a private Christian school and allowed the event to open with a prayer. AU wrote to the Association to explain that its events were legally considered to be public-school events and thus could not begin with prayer. The Association agreed that Association events would no longer open with prayer.
The City of Phoenix partnered with churches and other religious organizations to sponsor Project ROSE, which threatened individuals suspected of prostitution with criminal prosecution if they declined to enroll in a religious program. AU strenuously objected to this program on the grounds that coercing attendance in religious programs under threat of incarceration is a flagrant violation of the separation of church and state. AU eventually learned that the City had backed away from the program and was working with partners to develop an alternative program.
Somervell County decided to put a county-owned amphitheater up for lease, but the lease mandated the continuation of a religious passion-play that had been hosted at the amphitheater for many years. AU wrote to the County to explain that it could not legally require the lessee to continue to host a religious play. The County agreed to remove the requirement from the lease.
The court-mandated Alcohol Safety Action Program of the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office included videos with religious content. AU wrote to the Sheriff’s Office to explain that the inclusion of religious material in a court-mandated government program was unconstitutional. We asked that the religious material be removed. The Sheriff’s Office conducted an investigation and prohibited the continued use of the religious videos.
AU received a complaint that a public-school district’s computer system blocked student access to Scientology websites because it classified Scientology as a “cult,” while allowing free access to the websites of other religions. We wrote to the district to explain that government classification of a particular religion as a cult raises serious constitutional questions, and that application of the district’s website filtering policy in a discriminatory manner violates the Free Exercise Clause. In response, the district assured us that the filters no longer block Scientology websites.
An elementary-school principal regularly included religious messages in her emails to staff and engaged in prayer with the entire school staff at back-to-school meetings. AU wrote to the district, explaining that these actions were unconstitutional. The district responded and assured us that the behavior would not continue.
AU received a complaint that the Pierce County Council had included in its budget a seven-thousand-dollar grant to Child Evangelism Fellowship, a religious organization. We wrote to the Council to explain that the provision of government funds to this organization would be unconstitutional and to ask that it be removed from the budget. We did not receive an official response, but we learned that the item had been removed from the budget.
AU received a complaint that cheerleaders at a Tennessee public school were using run-through signs at football games that had quotations from the Bible. We wrote to the school district to explain that school-sponsored display of religious messages at public-school events is unconstitutional and to ask that the district put a stop to the practice. The district agreed and no longer uses run-through signs with Bible quotes.
An elementary school allowed the Gideons to distribute Bibles at the school’s open house. AU wrote to the school district to explain that allowing distribution of Bibles on school grounds during a school function is unconstitutional. The district responded and agreed to end the Bible distributions.
A middle-school teacher was promoting Christianity to his students by presenting proselytizing religious messages verbally, through classroom displays, and on his clothing, despite having been previously reprimanded for distributing crosses to students. AU wrote to the school district to explain that these behaviors were unconstitutional and to ask that the district put a stop to them. The district has assured us that appropriate corrective action has been taken.