AU learned that the Tennessee legislature was considering legislation to establish a Community Enhancement Grant Program, under which individual legislators could earmark surplus budget funds for religious organizations, including churches. AU wrote a letter to the Tennessee Attorney General — whom the legislature had asked to issue an opinion regarding the constitutionality of the proposed earmark program — explaining that the government is prohibited from giving direct cash aid to pervasively religious organizations.
AU learned that McCook Community College planned to offer a course on “creation science” during the Fall 2007 semester.
AU learned that several invocations delivered at meetings for the Sarasota County Board of Commissioners were Christian. AU wrote a letter to the Board, reminding commissioners that sectarian legislative prayers are constitutionally impermissible, and that the Board is obligated to take steps to ensure that future invocations are nonsectarian. A commissioner thanked AU for the letter and stated that the Board has tried to ensure that all prayers are nonsectarian and is committed to preventing sectarian prayers from recurring in the future.
Pine Ridge Middle School in Collier County maintained a practice of holding its award ceremonies at a church. A large, uncovered cross appeared on the wall in the place where the ceremonies were held. AU wrote a letter to the county school board explaining that it is unconstitutional to require students to enter a house of worship in order to be honored for their achievements. After receiving no formal response from the school board, we sent a public-records request concerning the school’s practice.
AU learned that the U.S. Air Force and Army were planning to take part in a three-day religious event over Memorial Day weekend. Organized by Task Force Patriot — an Evangelical Christian group that claims to “exist for the purpose of sharing the fullness of life in Jesus Christ with all U.S. military, military veterans and families” — the event was set to include a host of Evangelical Christian speakers, a worship service, Army parachute-jump demonstrations, and hourly Air Force B-2 stealth-bomber flyovers. Promotional materials identified the U.S.
The Sheriff of Bristol County purchased a house with county money and turned it over to Teen Challenge of New England to run a drug rehabilitation program. Teen Challenge attempts to “cure” drug addiction by immersing program participants in religious instruction and converting them to a fundamentalist form of Christianity. AU wrote a letter to the Sheriff, informing him that providing a county-owned facility free of charge to a religious organization to run a proselytizing program was unconstitutional.
AU received a complaint that an elementary-school art teacher made several religiously proselytizing comments to second-grade students. According to our complainant, after a lesson on the ancient Egyptian practice of including small personal artifacts in tombs in order to facilitate entry into heaven, the teacher told the class that they had no need for this practice because they “had Jesus,” and then informed students that Jesus saved millions of people. She also recounted to students the Biblical creation story.
AU received a complaint that the Jim Thorpe Police Department was ticketing people for parking in church-designated parking on public city streets. AU sent the police department several letters, explaining that the City’s special arrangement with a church to enforce church-only parking — and the resulting ticket issued to our complainant — likely violated the Establishment Clause. We subsequently requested all public records related to the parking ticket and the parking policy.
AU learned that the Lowell City Council has, for years, recited the Lord’s Prayer at the start of each meeting. After receiving complaints about the practice, the Council planned to consider whether it should continue the sectarian prayers, switch to nonsectarian prayers, or adopt a proposed plan to incorporate sectarian prayers from other religions by alternating or rotating them with the Lord’s Prayer. In a letter to the City Council, AU advised members that sectarian prayers — including the Lord’s Prayer — are constitutionally impermissible.
AU learned that the Saginaw County Board of Commissioners was considering a proposal to place a Ten Commandments monument in the lobby of the Saginaw County Governmental Center. The proposal’s sponsor, a county commissioner, made several statements in the press revealing his religious purpose.