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 >>
Students at a high school near St. Louis, Mo., reportedly arrived on campus Thursday carrying their Bibles as a form of protest after two students claimed a teacher banned them from reading the Bible while they walked down a school hallway.
The incident began when Angela English, mother of 15-year-old Kiela English, took to Facebook to express her dismay after her daughter was reportedly reprimanded by a teacher at Potosi High School for reading her Bible to herself in a school hallway. Kiela had reportedly been walking down the hallway with a friend, the two of them silently reading a Bible passage and then discussing its content with each other, when a teacher stopped them, telling them they could not be "pushing their religion" while at school.
"A teacher called them over and told them that they had to put it away – that this wasn't the place – that they can't be pushing their religion on people. They weren't pushing religion. They were just discussing it privately," English told the Daily Journal Online. more >>
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 >>
A school district in California says it will allow students to distribute coins with imprinted Bible passages during non-instructional time on campus. The decision from the district came after Freedom X, a legal group, complained on behalf of a local family.
A spokesperson for the Apple Valley Unified School District near Hesperia, Calif., said Monday that teachers at Desert Knolls Elementary School violated the religious freedom rights of Steven and Patrick Peterson when they told the students that they could not pass out fake coins with the Bible verse John 3:16 written on one side and the question "Where will you spend eternity?" written on the other.
"We're going to make sure that students are protected," Thomas Hoegerman, superintendent of the Apple Valley Unified School District, told the San Bernardino Sun. "There was no malicious intent but we clearly had folks who didn't fully understand the implications." more >>
The parents of a first grader are suing a Pennsylvania school district, accusing it of violating their son's constitutional rights when a teacher forbade him from distributing Valentine's Day cards containing a religious message to his classmates.
Donald and Ellen Abramo filed a lawsuit in federal court Monday on behalf of their son, identified in legal documents as "J.A.," against the Nazareth Area School District in Northampton County, Pa. The lawsuit alleges that J.A.'s constitutional rights were violated by a first grade teacher at Shafer Elementary School in Nazareth during a class "Friendship Day" party on Feb. 19, when the young boy attempted to pass out Valentine's Day cards to his fellow classmates.
The school's policy banning candy in class caused J.A. and his siblings to create Valentine's Day cards with the message of St. Valentine written on the piece of paper. The message read: "Happy Valentine's Day! St. Valentine was imprisoned and martyred for presiding over marriages and for spreading the news of God's love. In honor of St. Valentine's Day, I want you to know that God loves you!!!" It also included a reference to John 3:16, according to the lawsuit. more >>