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 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 City of San Diego leases large parcels of prime parkland to the Boy Scouts of America at nominal rates. The Boy Scouts discriminate in membership and employment against atheists and agnostics by requiring scouts and leaders to profess a belief in God. A federal trial court held that the leases were unconstitutional because the Boy Scouts are a religious organization and San Diego’s leasing process was not neutral. The Boy Scouts appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.