AU received a complaint that a Thanksgiving event at a public elementary school had opened with a prayer delivered by an invited speaker. AU wrote to the school to object to a prayer at an official school event, and the school wrote back to assure us that the prayer had been unsolicited and that the staff had been instructed that this sort of incident should not happen again.
The Cape Henlopen School District Board of Education considered a proposal to add a Bible Literacy Course at its high school. AU wrote to the Board to explain that a course devoted solely to the study of the Bible would present a significant risk of unconstitutional religious instruction and to urge the Board to either reject the proposed course or to authorize a course on comparative religion instead. Though we received no formal reply, the Board did not approve the course.
A charter school held a fundraiser for a religious organization and actively urged and incentivized students to give money. AU wrote to the school and to the Ohio Department of Education to explain that it is unconstitutional for a public school to raise money for organizations that will use those funds to engage in religious activity.
The City of Meridian sponsored an annual prayer breakfast and used the City’s website to advertise the event. AU wrote to the City to explain that government sponsorship or advertising of a prayer breakfast is unconstitutional, and to ask that the City end its association with the event. In response, the City ended its sponsorship of the breakfast, which is now fully private, and no longer advertises or endorses the event.
An elementary school playground had a piece of equipment that portrayed the story of Noah’s Ark through pictures and text. AU received complaints about the equipment and explained to the school in a letter that it is unconstitutional for a public school to display a Bible story on school grounds. The school removed the offending equipment.
A middle school was renting space during the weekend to a church and displaying the church’s signage on a permanent basis. AU wrote to the school to explain that, while it is permissible to rent space to the church, the school cannot permanently display the church’s signage because it communicates a message of school endorsement of the church. The school did not formally respond, but our complainant informed us that the sign was removed.
The Board of Education of Springboro Community Schools was considering a proposal to teach creationism in the public schools. AU wrote to the Board to explain that the inclusion of creationism in a public school curriculum is unconstitutional and to ask that the Board reject the proposal. Though we never received a formal response, the Board appears to have killed the proposal.
AU received a complaint about a variety of religion-promoting practices by the Frankfort Intermediate School, including: (1) broadcast of religious hymns over the loudspeaker during the holiday season; (2) incorporation of religious items and activities into multiple classrooms; (3) displaying a sign reading “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”; and (4) sending a letter home with students encouraging them to attend a back-to-school prayer rally at a church.
AU received a complaint that a county board of supervisors had decided to hang a Ten Commandments display in a government building because a local private theater had displayed a mural of the Hindu deity Shiva and local Christian leaders had become upset. We wrote to the county to explain that posting a Christian religious document in a government building in retaliation for the private display of a mural depicting a non-Christian deity is unconstitutional.
Discriminatory treatment of an atheist seeking an alternative citizenship oath led to the most recent in a series of letters AU has sent to the Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, objecting to repeated violations of immigrants rights and requesting better training and education of USCIS officials. We received a reply directly from the USCIS Director agreeing with our position and promising to better educate USCIS employees about the legal requirements surrounding alternate citizenship oaths.