In June 2011, the City of South Bend approved a plan to purchase a piece of land for $1.2 million and donate it to a Catholic school (St. Joseph's High School) to use for a football stadium and other athletic facilities. The religious school was handpicked by the City to receive the land, and the City permitted the school to use the land for religious purposes, including prayers at athletic events.
In May 2011, we learned that the Medina Valley School District in Castroville, Texas intended to sponsor at least two student-led prayers at its upcoming high-school graduation.
For years, the Sussex County Council opened its public meetings with a Council member reciting the Lord's Prayer. Americans United wrote to the County Council in June 2008, and again in April 2009, asking the Council to stop opening its meetings with the Lord's Prayer because the Constitution prohibits legislative prayers used to advance one religion. The County did not respond to either letter.
For years, the Greece Town Board has invited clergy to open the Board’s monthly meetings with a prayer. Over the past decade, all but two of the guest chaplains have been Christian, and the vast majority of prayers have been explicitly Christian. Guest chaplains often ask citizens to join in the prayers, and citizens face considerable pressure to participate. In February 2008, we filed a lawsuit on behalf of two local citizens, alleging that the Town’s practices violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
For nearly a decade, the Elmbrook School District near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, held its high-school graduation ceremonies in the sanctuary of an evangelical Christian church. A cross towered over the dais -- upon which graduation speakers addressed the audience and graduating seniors received their diplomas.
Starting in 2007, the Enfield Public Schools (located just north of Hartford, Connecticut) began holding the Schools’ two high-school graduations in the sanctuary of a Christian church, the First Cathedral. An enormous white cross sits atop the Cathedral’s roof, dominating the skyline as one approaches. To enter the building for graduations, students and their guests pass under another large cross in the Cathedral’s facade.
The Douglas County Board of Education has created a “Pilot Choice Scholarship Plan,” through which the Douglas County School District has authorized 500 students to use state, per-pupil educational funds that are earmarked for the public school system as vouchers to attend private schools. Most of the participating “Private School Partners” are religious, and these participating schools may discriminate on the basis of religion in both hiring and admissions.
After the Johnson County Commission removed a government-sponsored Ten Commandments display from the County Courthouse, the Commission created a public forum in the Courthouse lobby for displays relating to the development of American law. The Commission then accepted a display featuring the Ten Commandments, quotations from historical legal sources, and Biblical verses—bearing the message that the United States was founded on Christian principles.