AU received a complaint regarding a public school’s annual trip to a camp where counselors led attending students in prayer at mealtime. Our letter to the school district explained that it is unconstitutional for the school to allow outsiders to pray with or proselytize students at a school event. The school district agreed and spoke with the camp administration, which agreed to stop the prayers.
The Orlando City Council asked visitors to stand for the prayer used to open its meetings. AU wrote to the Council to explain that the law prohibits government bodies from asking citizens to take part in legislative prayer. The Council agreed to make it clear that the audience was not required to stand or otherwise participate in the prayer.
AU received a complaint regarding an Arkansas school district that included prayer in its graduation ceremonies and assigned a “class Bible verse” to its graduating classes. Our letter explained that these practices are flagrantly unconstitutional and asked that they be stopped. The school district agreed to end the practices.
The State of Ohio recently passed a program that will provide grants for mentoring programs to partnerships comprised of schools, local businesses, and local non-profits. When the Ohio Department of Education released the rules for this program, they stated that one of the partners must be a faith-based non-profit. AU wrote to the Governor of Ohio and to the Department of Education to explain that these rules were unconstitutional because they privileged religious organizations over non-religious ones.
A city fire department painted “Happy Birthday Jesus We Love You” on the side of one of its fire trucks during the holiday season. AU wrote to the city to explain that governmental promotion of Christianity is unconstitutional and to ask that the message be removed. The mayor agreed, removed the display, and assured us that there would be no more such displays in the future.
The University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Tok Center held its commencement ceremonies at a local church. The room used for the ceremony featured a large cross and a picture of Jesus. AU wrote to the University to explain that holding a graduation ceremony in a house of worship with religious iconography was unconstitutional. The University agreed to hold future graduations at secular venues.
The chaplain at a Coast Guard base in Puerto Rico had erected a large cross on base grounds as part of an Easter service, and then declined to remove the cross. AU wrote to base command to explain that it is unconstitutional for the government to display a cross on its property, and to ask that the cross be removed. The base did not reply, but our complainant has informed us that the cross has been taken down.
A public-school teacher gave students a handout containing several pages of explicitly religious quotations. AU wrote to the school to explain that this is unconstitutional, and the school informed us that they had spoken with the teacher and that it would not happen again.
AU received a complaint that the Maryland Department of Natural Resources was sponsoring a Boy Scouts troupe. This entailed the Department signing an agreement with the Boy Scouts that obligated the Department to enforce the Boy Scouts’ policies that discriminate against atheists and gay people. We wrote to the Department to point out that the Department cannot legally agree to discriminate against anyone on the basis of religion or sexual orientation, and to ask that the Department end its association with the Scouts.
AU received complaints of numerous violations within a Texas school district. One of those violations involved crosses displayed on the walls of school classrooms and offices. After AU’s letter of complaint, those crosses were removed. AU continues to pursue the other unresolved violations.