Elbert County Clerk Dallas Schroeder put up a poster in the Clerk’s office with a Biblical quotation to convey opposition to same-sex marriage. AU wrote to the county to explain that government display of such a poster violates not only the separation of church and state, but also the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. We asked the County to remove the sign. The County did not send us an official response, but the sign has since been removed.
A public-school Board of Education was opening its meetings with prayer. AU wrote to the Board to explain that official prayers at Board of Education meetings violate the separation of church and state. The Board’s attorney called and said that the Board would be adopting a moment of silence moving forward.
AU received a complaint regarding a public high school’s holiday concert, which featured an overwhelming amount of religious music and did not allow students to opt out of singing the religious songs. Our letter explained that school-choir performances must be predominantly secular and students must be provided with an opportunity to opt out of singing religious songs without penalty to their grade. The school agreed to reduce the amount of religious music in future performances and to provide an opt-out.
AU received a complaint regarding a public school that was allowing Gideons to distribute Bibles on school grounds, and that had a Ten Commandments display hanging in its administrative offices. We wrote to the district to explain that both of these practices were unconstitutional, and the district agreed to remove the Commandments display and to stop allowing the Gideons to distribute Bibles on campus.
A complainant contacted AU to raise concerns about a display in a public park featuring a soldier kneeling in front of a Latin cross. AU investigated and determined that the display had been present for a time, but had since been taken down. AU was concerned that the display would be put back up, and so wrote to the Parks & Recreation Department to explain the law and ask the Department to ensure that the display would not be returned to the park. The Department agreed and assured us that the display would not come back.
A public high school hosted an event called Honor America Night as a band fundraiser. The event opened with a prayer delivered by an invited clergyperson. AU wrote to the school district to explain that school events may not feature prayers. The district agreed to remove the prayer from future Honor America Night events.
The City of New York had placed a religious image on a webpage related to the Pope’s visit to the city. Lawyers from AU contacted the City’s law office and got the image removed from the site.
The City of Cape May planned to sponsor a broadcast at its convention center of the papal-mass in Philadelphia. AU wrote to the City to explain that its sponsorship of a religious event was unconstitutional. The City agreed and withdrew its sponsorship of the event.
The Coolidge City Council instituted a prayer to open its meetings and voted to require that all prayer-givers deliver Christian prayers. AU wrote to the Council to explain that this policy unconstitutionally favored Christianity and discriminated against other religions and the nonreligious. The Council quickly backtracked and dropped the requirement.
In 2012, AU had written to a school district to protest the use of a church as a venue for elementary-school plays. The school district had agreed to stop this practice, and upheld that promise until April 2015, when it again used the church as a venue for the school play. AU wrote to district officials to make them aware that this had happened and to ask them once again not to use the church as a venue. The district said that the use of the church arose from a scheduling difficulty with a secular venue and assured us that it would not happen again.