A small, coastal town in central California has settled a lawsuit regarding prayer at City Council meetings, ultimately agreeing to no longer hold any form of prayer, whether sectarian or non-sectarian, ahead of the local government meetings. City officials say they decided to settle the lawsuit to avoid further legal costs paid by taxpayer money.
Pismo Beach city officials announced their settlement earlier this week, nearly six months after the Freedom From Religion Foundation [FFRF] and the local chapter of Atheists United San Luis Obispo filed a lawsuit against the city, arguing that it had violated the U.S. Constitution's separation of church and state and the state Constitution's "No Preference" Clause by allowing predominately Christian-themed prayers before city council meetings.
The groups argued that the city had allowed its volunteer chaplain, the Rev. Paul E. Jones, to lead predominately Christian prayers ahead of city council meetings from 2008 to 2013. The lawsuit alleged that Jones often called on Pismo Beach citizens to live a "Christian lifestyle in accordance with the bible," among other sectarian statements. more >>
A New Jersey woman is claiming her First Amendment rights were recently violated when her local DMV refused her request to have an "8THEIST" license plate, even though they reportedly accepted a request for a "BAPTIST" vanity plate.
Shannon Morgan of Cumberland County filed a federal lawsuit against the state's Motor Vehicle Commission on Thursday, alleging that the government entity is discriminating against her vanity plate choice because she is an atheist.
The plaintiff, who is being represented by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, says in her lawsuit that when she visited the Motor Vehicle Commission's website last November to request "8THEIST" as her vanity license plate, her application was denied because the commission cited the term as objectionable. As a test, Morgan then reportedly entered in the word "BAPTIST" as a potential request, and the option was not deemed controversial by the website. more >>
Mayor Jim Fouts of Warren, Mich., recently denied an atheist's request to set up a "Reason Station" next to the "Prayer Station" in City Hall, saying the display would be disruptive.
When Douglas Marshall, a resident of Warren and a member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation [FFRF], learned that a "Prayer Station" had been set up in the atrium in City Hall, he applied to have a "Reason Station" set up next to the "Prayer Station" for one year, beginning May 1. The "Reason Station" would have reportedly included literature from the Freedom From Religion Foundation and a sign quoting Thomas Jefferson that read: "Question with boldness even the existence of God."
Marshall received a letter from Warren Mayor Jim Fouts, who told the FFRF member that because atheism is not defined as a religion, it is not protected under the First Amendment. more >>
An atheist group is combatting a Christian Easter display at Wisconsin's Capitol building in Madison by setting up a sign that reads "Nobody died for our 'sins,' Jesus Christ is a myth."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation says it rushed to get a permit for their display after seeing that the Concerned Women for America group was able to set up their own display at Wisconsin's Capitol building. The CWA group's display reportedly included a Christian cross and pro-life literature. The conservative women's group says on its website that it's dedicated to bringing "biblical principles into all levels of public policy."
The American Center for Law and Justice has successfully aided students from a New York-area high school in expressing their religious freedom through an after-school Bible study.
Concerned parents contacted the legal group after learning that the superintendent of an unnamed high school in Amsterdam, N.Y., had told a senior female student that she could not hold her student-led, after-school Bible study club without first purchasing an insurance policy to use the campus after school hours.
The superintendent made his request of the Bible study club even though other student-led clubs were not required to obtain an insurance policy. After being contacted by concerned parents and students, the ACLJ reportedly provided parents information about "relevant legal principals regarding religious clubs' access to school facilities," coming to the conclusion "that the Bible club must be given the same privileges as any other student-led club." more >>
City commissioners in Carroll County, Md., voted this week to temporarily halt sectarian prayers at their meetings in compliance with a judge's previous ruling. One city commissioner who voted against the temporary ban said that such a move "binds me to an act of disobedience against my Christian faith."
The commission voted 3 to 2 on Tuesday to stop sectarian prayers at official city meetings. Although they cannot reference "Jesus Christ," board members may still use the terms '"God," "Lord God," "Creator," "the Almighty," "God of Abraham," "Heavenly Father," "Lord, our Governor," "Mighty God," "Lord of Lords," "Creator of the Earth" and "Our Creator." Additionally, only board president David Roush may lead the invocations.
The two county commissioners who voted against Tuesday's agreement were Richard Rothschild (R-District 4) and Robin Bartlett Frazier (R-District 1). Rothschild spoke briefly at the meeting as to why he couldn't support the commission's resolution, saying it was stifling his expression of faith. Rothschild added that although he was willing to follow a judge's ruling halting sectarian prayers, he would not sign a resolution forbidding him from doing so. more >>