Other Court Challenges - Freedom From Religion Foundation

Newdow v. The Congress of the United States

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), along with 19 other plaintiffs is suing the U.S. treasury for stamping "In God We Trust" on currency. Honorary FFRF board member, Mike Newdow, is acting as legal counsel in the suit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on February 1, 2013.

IGWT was first added to coins during the Civil War and then to all currency in the 1950s. Plaintiffs allege that the religious verbiage is proselytizing, discriminatory and a per se establishment of monotheism in violation of the Establishment Clause.

Complaint 2/1/2013

Decision 9/13/2013

Plaintiffs' Corrected Appellate Brief 1/16/2014

Government Appellate Brief 1/17/2014

Plaintiffs' Reply Brief 1/31/2014

Decision by 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals

FFRF sues florist in Rhode Island for refusing flower order for Jessica Ahlquist

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is suing a Rhode Island florist in Superior Court in Providence for refusing to deliver FFRF's order of a dozen red roses to Cranston teen Jessica Ahlquist after she won a court case in January 2012. FFRF alleges Marina Plowman, owner-operator of Twins Florist in Cranston, denied FFRF "full and equal access to public accommodations by refusing to 

fulfill a flower order on the basis of religion (non-belief), in violation of Rhode Island General Laws." FFRF filed a previous complaint in January 2012 with the state Commission for Human Rights. A preliminary investigating commissioner determined in October that "probable cause" existed to believe that Plowman violated state law. The parties could have engaged in more conciliation with the commission, but the defendant chose to move the matter to Superior Court. FFRF has asked for a jury trial.

The defendant told a TV reporter at the time, "It's my freedom of speech. I refuse orders when I want and I take orders when I want."

FFRF filed a similar complaint with the commission about Flowers by Santilli's refusal to fulfill the order. Flowers by Santilli chose pursue mediation through the commission. Attorney Katherine Godin of Warwick is FFRF's local counsel in the lawsuit.

Legal Complaint, Jan. 25, 2013

More background:

Rhode Island florists refuse to deliver FFRF's flowers to Jessica Ahlquist, Jan. 19, 2012 
Florist shops violate rhode Island public accommodation statute, Jan. 19, 2012

 

FFRF sues Warren mayor over crèche display (Dec. 22, 2011)

On behalf of a local member, the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a federal lawsuit on Dec. 22, 2011, in the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, charging Mayor James R. Fouts, of Warren, Mich., with government censorship of its nonreligious views and unlawful endorsement of religion. FFRF sought a preliminary injunction to enjoin the mayor from continuing to establish religion “by allowing public displays of only religious symbols” and to order him to allow placement of FFRF’s Winter Solstice display. The lawsuit, FFRF v. City of Warren, was filed by the firm of Butzel Long in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., which is representing both FFRF and its member plaintiff pro bono. FFRF alleges censorship, establishment of Christianity and denial of equal protection under the law by the city of Warren.

The mayor responded to a demand letter sent by attorney Danielle Hessell with a letter that called FFRF’s sign “highly offensive.”

Fouts, amusingly, compared FFRF’s request to place its sign saying "There are no gods" to putting up a “sandwich board saying that there is no Santa Claus.” Fouts stated: “I cannot and will not sanction the desecration of religion it the Warren City hall atrium.”

The legal complaint summarizes the chronology of the mayor’s endorsement of religion and censorship of the views of FFRF and its member Douglas Marshall of Warren, a named plaintiff. FFRF complained about the nativity display in the city hall atrium more than a year ago, eventually receiving a response on Dec. 8, 2010, in which Fouts wrote that “all religions are welcome to celebrate their religious seasons with a display in city hall.” Marshall tried in vain repeatedly to obtain permission to place the FFRF sign in the city hall atrium.The complaint called Fouts’ denial of a permit to Marshall “an unconstitutional, content-based restriction on plaintiffs’ expression in a traditional public forum.” As the Supreme Court has held, “a principle at the heart of the Establishment Clause [is] that government should not prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion.” The mayor’s preference for the nativity display, and discriminatory practice against the plaintiffs also denies them equal protection under the law.

“As a result, Defendants send a clear message to Plaintiffs that they are outsiders and not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message that those who favor the Christian religion are insiders and favored members of the political community," charges the Complaint.

FFRF asks the court to enjoin the mayor from barring the FFRF sign, to find that the city has violated the rights of FFRF and its member, and to award nominal damages and reasonable attorney’s fees.

Legal Complaint

Injunction

Opinion

On May 31, 2012, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Zatkoff issued a ruling granting the city’s motion for summary judgment. FFRF has appealed this decision to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Plaintiff's Brief

Defendant's Response Brief

Amicus Curiae Brief - ACLU

Amicus Curiae Brief - AU

On February 25, 2013, a 3-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the district court.  In an opinion authored by Judge Sutton, the panel found Warren's display to be permissible government speech.

Warren 6th Circuit Opinion

FFRF challenges Arizona Day of Prayer in state court (Jan. 4, 2012)

FFRF, its Valley of the Sun Chapter and several members as well as plaintiffs who were Buddhist, Christian and Muslim, filed suit in state court, challenging the constitutionality of Arizona Gov. Janice K. Brewer's annual Arizona Day of Prayer. The lawsuit was filed in Superior court of Arizona, County of Maricopa in January of 2012. Judge Eileen Willett dismissed the case on August 13, 2012 for lack of standing and for lack of jurisdiction to issue relief to the plaintiffs. On Nov. 16, 2012, FFRF and the individual plaintiffs filed an appeal to Division One of the Arizona Court of Appeals arguing that their injuries are sufficient to challenge the Governor's proclaimed days of prayer.

The Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal based on a lack of plaintiff standing  on June 11, 2013. In an unpublished opinion, Judge Donn Kessler wrote that the plaintiffs would have to demonstrate behavior of avoidance of the violative conduct or "that the alleged violation is so pervasive and continuing that it of necessity affects on a practical level how the plaintiffs interact with government." In its earlier briefing, FFRF emphasized court decisions that allowed standing where the plaintiffs had unwelcome contact with government speech promoting religion. The court did not reach the merits of the constitutional claims.

Legal complaint (pdf)

Summons (pdf)

Motion to Dismiss

Response to Motion to Dismiss

Order of Dismissal

FFRF Appeal Brief (Oct. 1, 2012)

Governor's Answering Brief (Dec. 28, 2012)

FFRF Reply Brief (Jan. 22, 2013)

FFRF Sues Colorado Governor Over Prayer Proclamations

The Foundation, with the help of Denver-area members and plaintiffs, filed suit on Nov. 12, 2008, against Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter Jr., for showing governmental preference for religion in issuing National Day of Prayer proclamations in tandem with the National Day of Prayer (NDP) Task Force.

The Foundation filed the lawsuit in state court in Denver, both on behalf of four named plaintiffs and its more than 400 Colorado members. The lawsuit seeks to declare Day of Prayer proclamations and dedications by Gov. Ritter in violation of the Religious Freedom clause of the Colorado Constitution, and seeks an order enjoining him from issuing further such proclamations. The Complaint notes that not only has Ritter issued official National Day of Prayer proclamations, but he appears to have aligned himself and the State of Colorado with a national observance called Reign Down USA, an evangelical movement that promotes prayer, ostensibly for restoration of the nation.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled on May 10, 2012 in FFRF's favor: "A reasonable observer would conclude that these proclamations send the message that those who pray are favored members of Colorado’s political community, and that those who do not pray do not enjoy that favored status.”

On May 20, 2013, the Colorado Supreme Court granted Gov. Hickenlooper's petition for review. The court will decide whether to upold the appellate decision, which held that FFRF and four of its members have standing and that the state constitution disallows the governor's "Colorado Day of Prayer" exhortations. 

Case No. 08-CV-9799

Press Release

FFRF Complaint (11/12/10)
Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment

Exhibit A
Exhibit B
Exhibit C
Exhibit D
Exhibit E
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment

Memorandum of Law
Defendants' Motion
Plaintiffs' Cross-Motion
Plaintiffs' Brief in Opposition
Plaintiffs' Responses
Plaintiffs' Proposed Findings
Affidavit of Richard L. Bolton

Order Summary Judgement (10/28/10)

FFRF Amended Notice of Appeal; Proposed Order (12/14/10)
Order re FFRF Amended Notice of Appeal (12/14/10)

FFRF Opening Appellate Brief
Colorado Answer Brief
FFRF Reply Brief

Opinion (in FFRF's favor) by Judge Bernard, concurring Loeb and Lichtenstein
May 10, 2012

Colorado Petition to Supreme Court 

FFRF Response

Colorado Reply

Order Granting Review

FFRF press release, May 10, 2012

Briefs:

Governor Opening Brief to Colorado Supreme Court

FFRF’s Answer Brief (Nov. 8, 2013)

Amicus brief by American Humanist Association

Amicus brief by ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Opinion (November 24, 2014)

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator

 

FFRF privacy statement

AAI-LOGO

FFRF is a member of Atheist Alliance International.