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Amicus Briefs

Bates v. Pakseresht (2024)

FFRF filed this 9th Circuit Court of Appeals amicus brief on February 15, 2024, with Americans United signing on. The brief was in support of the state of Oregon's efforts to deny a religious exemption to a potential foster parent. The plaintiff claimed that Oregon violated her free exercise and speech rights when it denied her application to become a foster parent due to her refusal to comply with a neutral state regulation requiring foster parents to “accept and support” LGBTQIA+ children.

FFRF's amicus brief argued that giving foster parents a religious exemption from accepting LGBTQIA+ children would undermine Oregon's efforts to protect foster children from abuse and neglect. 

This brief was drafted by Legal Fellow Kat Grant, assisted by FFRF Associate Counsel Sam Grover. Americans United for the Separation of Church and State signed onto this brief. 

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FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine (2024)

FFRF and American Atheists jointly filed this amicus brief before the U.S. Supreme Court on January 30, 2024. This case was a challenge by anti-abortion groups to FDA regulations relating to mifepristone, which can be used to induce abortion. 

The brief argued that the anti-abortion groups did not have standing to challenge the FDA regulations. Their injuries relied on hypotheticals and improbable chains of events that, if accepted, would grant judicial review over any number of future implausible and hypothetical injuries. In addition, the brief criticized the manipulation by courts of their jurisdiction in order to favor preferred litigants. The Supreme Court has a history of turning away cases involving alleged violations of civil rights while still deciding cases involving Christian litigants who assert constitutional violations.

This brief was filed in collaboration with American Atheists with contributions by Legal Fellow Sammi Lawrence, Senior Counsel Patrick Elliott, and AA Litigation Counsel Geoffrey Blackwell.

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Cedar Park v. Kreidler (2024)

FFRF filed this 9th Circuit Court of Appeals brief on January 29th, 2024. This case centered around Cedar Park Assembly of God, a church that argued that a state law requiring all health insurance companies to provide citizens access to abortion care coverage and contraceptives, even when not covered by their employer's insurance, violated the church's First Amendment rights. This was despite the fact that the church's employer healthcare was already exempt from providing those types of services. The harms that Cedar Park alleged were rooted in the remote possibility that one or more of its employees might access health care services of which the church disapproved.

FFRF's brief argued that Cedar Park did not have standing to bring its lawsuit because it hadn't shown that it was or will be injured by the state law. This was because the intent of the Washington law was to regulate health insurance companies, not employers, and Cedar Park was never restricted from purchasing health insurance that aligned with its beliefs.

This brief was drafted by Legal Fellow Sammi Lawrence with Associate Counsel Sam Grover.

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Spectrum WT v. Wendler (2023)

FFRF filed this 5th Circuit Court of Appeals amicus brief on behalf of the Secular Student Alliance. This brief was written in support of students at West Texas A&M whose charity drag show was cancelled by University President Walter Wendler. Wendler cancelled the show in an email that repeatedly cited personal religious beliefs as a rationale for the cancellation. 

The brief argued that when Wendler chose to censor student speech based upon his personal religious preferences, he engaged in viewpoiont discrimination, which is a well-established violation of the First Amendment. The brief goes on to explain that the politically hostile climate in the United States has made drag shows inherently political acts that protest Christian nationalism.

Shortly after filing its motion to submit an amicus brief, FFRF learned that its motion was denied by Judge Edith Clement. FFRF was not the only organization to have its motion to file an amicus brief denied--a brief by the ACLU of Texas along with Equality Texas and a separate brief by the Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law First Amendment Clinic were also denied in the same order. FFRF filed a joint motion for reconsideration with these other groups. This motion was granted by a three judge panel and all of the briefs were resubmitted.

This brief was drafted by Legal Fellow Kat Grant and FFRF Associate Counsel Sam Grover.

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Carter v. Local 556 (2023)

On October 19, 2023 FFRF filed a 5th Circuit Court of Appeals amicus brief on behalf of Southwest Airlines. This brief argued against a district judge’s order compelling Southwest Airlines attorneys to attend “religious liberty training” hosted by Christian nationalist organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). The district court judge ordered the training after finding Southwest in contempt based on the wording the airline chose for a non-discrimination notice that the judge previously ordered Southwest to issue to its employees.

The brief argued that the required training was highly unusual and an abuse of the court’s discretion because ADF is an ideological advocacy organization with strong Christian ties. It goes on to argue that allowing the district court’s order to stand would set a dangerous precedent that would be ripe for abuse.

This brief was primarily drafted by Legal Fellow Sammi Lawrence with Senior Counsel Patrick Elliott and Associate Counsel Sam Grover. 

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Catholic Charities Bureau v. State of Wisconsin Labor and Industry Review Commission (2023)

FFRF filed an amicus brief in the Wisconsin Supreme Court in support of the state. This brief argued against five religiously-affiliated nonprofit organizations who claimed they should be exempted from the state unemployment system.   

This brief argued that allowing the Catholic Charities Bureau and affiliated nonprofits to circumvent unemployment insurance programs would have a far-reaching impact for Wisconsin employees. It goes on to explain that an exemption would result in thousands of healthcare and educational workers losing the protections afforded by the unemployment program. 

Special thank you to FFRF Law Student Intern Peyton Williams for his hard work and contributions to this brief.

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Jane Doe No.1 v. Attorney General of the State of Indiana (2023)

FFRF joined a coalition of like-minded organizations in filing this amicus brief on behalf of the petitioners. This case centered around an Indiana law that required healthcare providers to bury or cremate fetal tissue remains from an abortion or miscarriage procedure regardless of the patients' preference.   

This brief took the position that Indiana's law burdened patients’ religious beliefs and practices in violation of the Free Exercise Clause. It argued that there are a variety of religious beliefs regarding end-of-life rituals and that there isn't one correct and dignified means of fetal tissue disposal. 

Mia Guizzetti Hayes was the counsel of record on this case and filed it on behalf of FFRF and twenty-eight other organizations whose members were burdened by this law. 

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Groff v. DeJoy (2023)

 FFRF filed this Supreme Court amicus brief in support of the United States Postal Service on March 30, 2023. This case involved a Christian postal worker, Gerald Groff, who observed the Sabbath and requested to not work on Sundays. After Sunday deliveries became commonplace due to USPS contracts with Amazon, USPS initially accommodated Groff’s request by scheduling co-workers to swap or cover Groff’s Sunday shifts. This eventually became difficult at a small station with few employees and USPS ultimately determined that continuing to accommodate Groff was causing undue hardship. 

This amicus took the position that granting an employee the religious privilege of not working Sundays harmed co-workers, customers and other parties by creating an undue hardship. It also pushed back against the plaintiff's Title VII argument, explaining that courts have denied Title VII religious discrimination cases when the accommodation would harass or cause distress to customers, co-workers or subordinates.

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A.M. v. Indianapolis (2022)

 FFRF joined the National Women's Law Center and 57 organizations in a 7th Circuit amicus brief which challenged an Indiana law that discriminated against transgender school athletes. This brief is in support of the plaintiff, a 10-year-old transgender girl who was kicked off her elementary school softball team after a sports ban targeting transgender girls and young women took effect in the summer of 2022.

The brief highlighted how inclusive school policies are consistent with Title IX and a key part of creating gender equity in education. It also pointed out that this law would force schools to discriminate on the basis of sex in violation of Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause.

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Cambridge Christian School v. Florida High School Athletic Association (2022)

On October 14, 2022 FFRF filed an amicus brief in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in support of the Florida High School Athletic Association. 

Cambridge Christian School sought to force the Florida High School Athletic Association to broadcast prayers over the public-address system at state championship competitions hosted by the association. This brief argued that Cambridge Christian’s free speech claim fails because it has not established that a forum exists for private speech at these government-sponsored events.

This brief was filed in collaboration with The Central Florida Freethought Community, a chapter of FFRF. Both organizations have previously jointly filed amicus briefs in the 11th Circuit and District Court as well for this case.

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Previous Press Releases

Kennedy v. Bremerton School District (2022)

FFRF filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in support of the Bremerton School District on April 1, 2022. The issue in this case was whether the school district violated the free exercise and free speech rights of a former high school football coach who wanted to pray on the 50-yard line right after games. 

FFRF argued that the case became moot because Coach Kennedy was no longer living in Washington. FFRF also argued that nonreligious students and students who are religious minorities are harmed when coaches institute prayers for their teams. 

FFRF was joined by the Center For Inquiry, the American Humanist Association and the Secular Coalition for America on this brief. The Foundation also previously filed a brief with the 9th Circuit.

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303 Creative LLC v. Elenis (2022)

FFRF filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in support of Colorado officials on August 18, 2022. This case involved a Colorado business owner who claimed she was planning to start designing wedding websites but wanted to do so without needing to provide service to same-sex couples. This denial of service would violate the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act because it prevents businesses from refusing service on the basis of sexual orientation. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Colorado officials and found that the free speech rights of the businesses are not violated by the law.

FFRF’s brief argued that the business owner lacked standing to challenge the law because she manufactured a case without actually designing wedding websites. It also argued that a ruling in favor of 303 Creative would lead to increased religious discrimination. FFRF was joined by the Center For Inquiry, the American Humanist Association, and the American Atheists on this brief.

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Shurtleff v. City of Boston (2021)

 FFRF filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in support of the City of Boston on December 21, 2021. The issue in this case was whether or not it was unlawful for the City of Boston to refuse the organization Camp Constitution’s application for a Christian Flag to be flown at City Hall. The First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that flags displayed on a government flagpole constitute government speech and therefore displaying the Christian flag or any religious flag on a city hall flagpole could constitute impermissible endorsement of religion. FFRF previously joined an amicus brief filed with the 1st Circuit.

FFRF’s brief argued that Boston’s flagpole is a nonpublic forum subject to reasonable restrictions and that Boston’s concern of not wanting to give the appearance of endorsement was a reasonable justification for not approving the display of religious flags on a government flagpole.

FFRF was joined by the Center For Inquiry on this brief.

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Kluge v. Brownsburg Community School Corporation (2021)

 FFRF filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Secular Student Alliance with the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in support of Brownsburg Community Schools  on November 8, 2021. This case centered around a public school teacher who refused to use the preferred pronouns and names of transgender students even when it made the students uncomfortable. 

The amicus argued that the court should consider unique aspects of the educational environment when analyzing undue hardship. The teacher’s request not to use students’ first names occurs within the context of a public education system, which has important responsibilities to students. Public school teachers have a position of power and responsibility that they need to exercise in the most proper manner. Additionally, the brief maintains, schools may limit a teacher’s religiously motivated behavior in the classroom due to both pedagogical concerns and potential to harm students. 

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Carson v. Makin (2021)

 FFRF filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in support of the state of Maine on October 29, 2021. At issue in this case is Maine’s refusal to use taxpayer money to fund religious education. The state of Maine offered families a tuition assistance program to help fund sending kids located in rural areas to a private school if their town did not have a public one. Parents who wanted to send their kids to private religious institutions sued for access to that funding. FFRF previously filed an amicus brief when the case was before the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals.

FFRF’s brief argued against the use of public money that would subsidize sectarian education because the Founders adopted the First Amendment to ensure that taxpayers are not compelled to subsidize a religion that is not their own. It also argued that the “no aid” principle avoids government entanglement with religious education and the government oversight that must necessarily be coupled with state funding.

FFRF was joined by the Center For Inquiry on this brief.

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John Ramirez v. Brian Collier (2021)

This amicus brief was filed on September 27, 2021 in support of neither party in the capital punishment case of John Ramirez. This case centered around whether or not a death row inmate should be allowed to have his pastor physically touch him and audibly pray in the execution chamber while he is being put to death.

The primary argument of this brief was that the Supreme Court should hold that capital punishment is unconstitutional. However, the brief also argued that if executions are allowed to take place, end-of-life accommodations must be equally available. 

FFRF was joined by American Atheists and the American Humanist Association in filing this brief.

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Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization (2021)

 This SCOTUS brief was filed on September 20, 2021 in support of an abortion clinic in Jackson, Mississippi. 

This brief took the position that the type of restrictions to abortion care being put forth by the state in the case are imbued with religion because it would do away with viability framework and instead use religious beliefs about when personhood begins

FFRF was joined by The Center for Inquiry and American Atheists in filing this brief.

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James v. Heinrich (2020)

This brief was filed before the State Supreme Court of Wisconsin on November 10, 2020. This brief was filed during the COVID-19 pandemic in response to an injunction that halted COVID-19-related school closure orders as they applied to religious and private schools.

This brief urged the court to overturn its previous injunction. FFRF’s brief argued that it was in the interest of public health for schools to remain closed while the pandemic was uncontrolled without vaccines.

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Rebecca Woodring v. Jackson County, Indiana (2020)

FFRF filed this 7th Circuit Court of Appeals brief in support of atheist plaintiff, Rebecca Woodring. This case centered around a Nativity display that was erected annually at the Jackson County, Indiana Courthouse. 

FFRF’s brief argued that the principles of Establishment Clause jurisprudence govern Nativity scene displays and that the display was unconstitutional under the Supreme Court’s Lynch and Allegheny cases. Additionally, this display created the message of exclusion and secondary status to anyone who was not Christian.

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Sharonell Fulton, et al., Petitioners v. City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, et al. (2020)

This coalition brief was filed with the Supreme Court in 2020 in opposition to a Catholic adoption agency that claimed it could discriminate as a government contractor against same-sex couples for foster care.

This brief argued that the Supreme Court should rule against Catholic Social Services because it is antithetical to the concept of religious liberty to allow a government contractor that serves the public to discriminate on the basis of religion.

FFRF was joined by the Center For Inquiry and American Humanist Association in filing this brief.

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Arab American Civil Rights League, et al., v. Trump (2020)

On July 31, 2020 FFRF joined a coalition of civic organizations in a 6th Circuit brief in opposition to then President Trump’s travel ban for Muslims. 

This brief argued that the presidential executive order and its two prior iterations all contributed to violence and bigotry not only against Muslims but against immigrants more broadly. FFRF specifically opposed the ban due to its potential to be extended to non-believers as well.

Lynne Bernabei and Alan Kabat filed this on behalf of the following civil rights organizations: Advocates for Youth, Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights under Law,  Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Mississippi Center for Justice, National Center for Lesbian Rights and Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs

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Gish v. Newsom (2020)

This amicus brief was filed in the 9th Circuit on June 30th, 2020 in response to stay at home orders limiting church capacities during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

FFRF’s brief argued that churches should not have an exemption to the rule limiting worship service attendance to 25 percent capacity or 100 people. It also refuted s the argument that the rule is targeteding religious gatherings as it was applied equally to all types of gathering, religious or secular.

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Fabick v. Palm (2020)

This brief was filed before the State Supreme Court of Wisconsin on May 8, 2020. One of the cases before the court involved a challenge by two citizens who claimed they wanted to attend religious gatherings that were unconstitutionally restricted by the state’s COVID-19 orders that were issued during the pandemic. FFRF wrote this brief in support of the state and its stay-at-home order, specifically as it applied to religious gatherings.

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Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania (consolidated with Trump v. Pa.) (2020)

The Freedom From Religion Foundation signed onto this coalition brief that was filed with the Supreme Court. This case centered around the Affordable Care Act, which required employer-provided health plans to cover preventive care for women. Since 2013, there have been accommodations exempting houses of worship from this requirement once notice was given that they wanted one. 

The Trump administration sought to dramatically increase exemptions to the contraceptive mandate and this brief argued that the administration breached the First Amendment by allowing certain religion-based exemptions from required birth-control coverage.

Richard Katzke of Americans United for Separation of Church and State was counsel of record on this amicus and filed it on behalf of FFRF and twenty-four other like minded organizations on this brief.

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Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru (consolidated with St. James School v. Biel) (2020)

FFRF filed this 2020 brief with the Supreme Court in support of a woman who was fired by her employer, a religious school, while she underwent treatment for breast cancer. The school argued that they had the right to conduct hiring, firing and other employment decisions under the claim that their teachers are subject to the ministerial exemption.

This amicus brief focused on the concerns over allowing religious organizations to have a carte blanche to hire and fire without regard to the civil rights of their employees. The brief also examined how this could affect the millions of healthcare workers that are employed by religious hospitals. 

FFRF partnered with the American Medical Women’s Association in filing this brief.

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Tanzin v. Tanvir (2020)

FFRF filed this brief with the Supreme Court on January 14, 2020 in support of neither party. This case was brought by three Muslim men who sued under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) after they were put on the no-fly list for refusing to be government spies in their religious communities.

The amicus discussed the issues that could arise if government employees could be held personally liable for monetary damages under RFRA. It would require public servants to evaluate whether the laws they’re enforcing require a religious exemption as part of their job.

The brief was written by Constitutional legal scholar Marci Hamilton and the American Humanist Association joined FFRF in filing this brief.

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International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump (2019)

The Freedom From Religion Foundation signed onto this coalition brief that was filed with the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. It argues against the Trump era ban on immigrants from several Muslim-majority countries. FFRF specifically took a position against this ban because the policy impinges the rights of Muslims, other religious minorities, and non-believers.

This brief was filed by the Bernabie & Kabat law firm. Groups that also joined on the brief include Advocates for Youth, Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights under Law, Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Mississippi Center for Justice, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Urban League, People for the American Way Foundation; Southern Coalition for Social Justice, and Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. 

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Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue (2019)

This Supreme Court amicus brief was filed by FFRF on November 13, 2019. It argued against the governmental funding of religious education through a neo-voucher system that would have provided a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for donors that supported scholarships for private schools. The brief also relies on the No Aid Clause of the Montana constitution that prevents the direct or indirect payments for sectarian education.

FFRF was joined by the Center for Inquiry, American Atheists, and the American Humanist Association in filing this brief. 

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New Hope Family Services Inc v. Poole (2019)

FFRF filed this amicus brief with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on October 28, 2019 in collaboration with other secular organizations against an organization who sought to receive a religious exemption from New York State’s non-discrimination laws. New Hope Family Services, a Christian adoption agency, argued that they should be allowed to exclude same-sex couples from adopting. This brief argued that the adoption agency should not be allowed to be exempt from non-discrimination laws and should instead focus on serving the best interests of the children in their care.

This brief was filed by Geoffrey Blackwell of American Atheists. The American Humanist Association and Center For Inquiry also signed on.

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Fields v. Speaker of the Penn. House of Representatives (2019)

This brief was filed in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in support of non-believers who were denied the opportunity to lead an invocation. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives began most legislative sessions with a prayer from a guest chaplain, preventing those with no faith from participating. This brief argued that Pennsylvania House's policy of excluding non-believers is a violation of the Establishment Clause.

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June Medical Services v. Gee (2019)

FFRF filed this Supreme Court amicus brief with a group of 71 other organizations in support of abortion rights. This brief argued against a Louisiana law that required abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. It also explains that these types of barriers make it more difficult for clinics to operate and often lead to unnecessary closures. 

This brief was filed by Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP in collaboration with the National Women's Law Center. 

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Lions Club of Albany, CA v. City of Albany (2019)

FFRF filed this brief before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of the removal of a 20-foot cross that was located on city property. In an attempt to distance themselves from ownership of the cross the City of Albany granted an easement to the Lion’s Club for the purpose of upkeep. This brief argued that granting the Lion’s Club an easement to the land was not a solution and that the cross remained unconstitutional because it was still on city land.

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The American Legion v. American Humanist Association (2019)

FFRF filed this amicus brief in collaboration with four other secular groups in opposition to a 40-foot cross on public land in Maryland. The Bladensburg cross was originally erected as a war memorial for those who died in the first World War. This brief argued that the monument was not constitutional or representative of the faith backgrounds of veterans it claimed to represent. 

Counsel of record on this brief was Robert Loeb of Orrick, Herrington, and Sutcliffe LLP. FFRF was joined by the Center for Inquiry, American Atheists, Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers, and the Secular Coalition for America in signing onto this brief. FFRF previously filed an amicus brief with CFI when this case was before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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 Fourth Circuit

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Espinosa v. Dzurenda et al (2018)

This amicus brief was filed in collaboration with Americans United for the Separation of Church and State before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. This case centers around a Nevada inmate who identified as a Humanist and was denied the right to meet with other Humanist inmates on the basis that Humanism doesn't require the belief in a god. 

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Cambridge Christian School v. Florida High School Athletic Association (2017)

This brief was filed with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on December 11, 2017 in support of the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA). This case centered around a christian school that wanted to compel the FHSAA to broadcast prayers at state football championship games. The school requested access to the PA system so that prayers could be broadcast before games and FHSAA denied this request. 

FFRF’s brief argued that a private religious school did not have a constitutional right to use a PA system at a state-sponsored event. It went on to explain that the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment protects only private speech, not government speech. If the FHSAA were forced to broadcast Christian prayers, it would have violated the constitutional rights of thousands of families.

This brief was filed in collaboration with the Central Florida Freethought Community. An amicus was filed at the District Court level in the case as well. 

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Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (2017)

FFRF filed this Supreme Court amicus brief on October 27, 2017. This case centered around a baker who refused to design and bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. In response, the couple filed a discrimination complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The commission found that the baker had violated the couple’s rights under the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA). The baker argued that the Free Exercise Clause protected him from enforcement of CADA.

This amicus brief argued that the bakery sought to redefine the free exercise into an unlimited right to act on religious beliefs, which is contrary to historic precedent. Second, granting this type of religious exemption would have far-reaching effects beyond this one issue. This is because there is no practical way to draw a line between things like religiously motivated discrimination and discrimination motivated by nonreligious beliefs.

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Taxpayers for Public Education v. Douglas County School District (2017)

This Colorado Supreme Court amicus brief was filed on October 25, 2017 in support of a challenge to school vouchers. After the Trinity Lutheran case was decided this case was brought back for reconsideration. It focused on a program that provided certain students funding to offset tuition at participating private schools.

FFRF’s brief argued that the tax dollars should not go to benefit religion. It also argues that the No Aid Clause in the Colorado Constitution is there to protect religious freedom for all by avoiding preferential treatment for one specific religion.

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Trump v. Hawaii (2017)

This amicus brief was filed by FFRF on September 14, 2017 in opposition to then President Trump's travel ban on immigration from several Muslim-majority countries. This brief argued that the executive order, "Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States," violated the Establishment Clause. The executive order effectively established Christianity as a favored religion and Christians as favored members of society, while overtly discriminating against Muslims. The brief goes on to explain that this type of discrimination could easily be applied with other minority views, such as nonbelievers. 

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St. Raphael's Congregation v. City of Madison (2017)

 This amicus brief was filed on June 28, 2016 in support of the taxation of a vacant plot of land that was the location of a church. The lot was once the site of St. Raphael's Cathedral as well as a dilapidated school building that was torn down. Because the conjoined lot was vacant, the city began taxing the property in 2012. That prompted the church to add a "Way of the Cross" walking path with plans to rebuild the church at some point. The church then claimed the property was tax exempt because it was being used for religious purposes.

FFRF’s brief argued in favor of the city of Madison levying taxes on the property. It further explained that because the property was vacant and merely being held for future development, it did not qualify for a tax exemption under Wisconsin law.

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Ming Tung v. China Buddhist Association (2016)

The Freedom from Religion Foundation filed this brief with the Supreme Court on November 4th, 2016 in support of the petitioners. This case revolved around a property dispute between the China Buddhist Association and the sole surviving member of the original Board of Trustees.

FFRF argued that church property issues should be handled with ordinary secular law and that no special attention should be given to the fact that the properties were religious in nature. It further explained that as more people begin to identify as non-religious and churches begin selling off their property this issue will become more common, thus, a consistent and neutral application of law is important to establish.

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American Humanist Association v. Birdville Independent School District (2016)

This coalition brief was filed in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of the American Humanist Association and a high school student. This was a challenge to a Texas school district who selected students to deliver prayers to the public at its school board meetings.

This amicus brief argued that the Birdville school board's practice was an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. The practice also encouraged community backlash and antagonism toward nontheists, while creating divisiveness in the community.

The brief was filed in collaboration with the Center for Inquiry, American Atheists, Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, and the Secular Coalition for America.

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Catholic Health Initiatives v. Janeen Medina (2016)

This brief was filed before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in a case surrounding religious exemptions for retirement plans. The Employment Retirement Income Security Act regulates retirement plans, but exempts those managed by churches from requirements such as paying insurance premiums, meeting minimum funding standards, and disclosing funding levels to plan participants. 

FFRF made the argument that this exemption violated the Establishment Clause and that imposing the same requirements on religious plans as for all others would not be an excessive entanglement of government and religion. It goes on to explain that this exemption has led to under regulation and deficient plans through churches.

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Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer (2016)

FFRF filed this brief in collaboration with like-minded organizations in support of the denial of a government grant to a church. Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, MO applied for a state grant to fund the upgrade of a playground for their preschool. Their application was denied by the state because the Establishment Clause prohibits direct payment of taxpayer funds to churches and other houses of worship.

This brief took the position that the state was correct to deny the grant application because it would otherwise be an Establishment Clause violation. Additionally, the limited record before the court showed a significant risk that the church would use its taxpayer-improved playground for religious activities. 

This brief was co-filed with the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Missouri, American Humanist Association, Center for Inquiry, and People for the American Way Foundation. 

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Final Exit Network, Inc. v. State of Minnesota (2016)

This brief was filed before the State of Minnesota Court of Appeals in support of the Final Exit Network, an organization who believe in the rights of mentally competent adults to voluntarily end their own life. In May of 2015 they were convicted of the felony of assisting a suicide because they provided a Minnesota resident with the necessary information for her to be able to end her own life.

FFRF’s brief argued that suppressing information on the subject of end of life care would have a direct impact on freethinkers and others who support the rights of individuals to make end of life decisions without religious influence. Additionally, it explained that the Minnesota statute applied in the case would have a chilling effect on speech because it is impossible to discern what speech was permitted under the law.

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Lund, et al v. Rowan County (2015)

FFRF joined a coalition to file this brief in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in opposition to the Rowan County Board of Commissioners’ prayer practice. Rowan County officials typically opened their meetings with prayer led by the commissioners and then instructed attendees to join in those prayers.

This brief argued that the prayer practice put pressure on citizens of varying or no faith to violate their conscience by participating in Christian religious exercises. It also pushed back on the notion that Greece v. Galloway would allow for this type of legislative prayer.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State authored the brief. It was also joined by the American Humanist Association, Anti-Defamation League, Center for Inquiry, Interfaith Alliance Foundation, Sikh Coalition, Union for Reform Judaism, and Women of Reform Judaism. 

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Kaplan v. Saint Peter's Healthcare System (2015)

FFRF filed this amicus brief in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals that concerns religious exemptions for retirement plans. The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) regulates retirement plans, but exempts church plans from requirements such as paying insurance premiums, meeting minimum funding standards, and disclosing funding levels to plan participants.

FFRF’s brief argued that the "church plan exemption" itself is unconstitutional under the First Amendment because it treats churches preferentially.

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Stapleton v. Advocate Healthcare Network (2015)

This amicus brief was filed on May 13, 2015 in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in a case surrounding religious exemptions for retirement plans. The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) regulates retirement plans, but exempts church plans from requirements such as paying insurance premiums, meeting minimum funding standards, and disclosing funding levels to plan participants.

FFRF’s brief made the argument that the "church plan exemption" itself is unconstitutional under the First Amendment because it treats churches preferentially.

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Beaton v. City of Eureka (2015)

FFRF filed this brief with the California Court of Appeals on April 22, 2014 in support of a local atheist who opposed the city council opening their meetings with prayers. Prior to 2009, the town had no official policy on invocations. Beginning that year, anyone who volunteered was permitted to give an invocation. The practice of sectarian prayers at meetings was challenged in 2012 by the plaintiff and local resident.

The brief argued that prayers at government meetings violate the constitution. It goes on to explain that the California Constitution provides protection of the separation of state and church and that the government should refuse to use its power to endorse religious practices. 

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Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (2014)

This coalition amicus brief was filed in the Supreme Court on January 27, 2014. At issue in this case was the corporation Hobby Lobby’s argument that it was “a person” under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), and that the federal government’s mandate on contraceptive insurance imposed a substantial burden on the corporation’s claimed Christian beliefs.

This brief countered Hobby Lobby’s claim that for-profit corporations have a right to deny contraceptive coverage to workers based on religious objections. It argued that the intensity surrounding religious freedom and women’s reproductive health obscured the fact that the unconstitutionality of RFRA was the real issue that the court should have ruled on. FFRF’s interest in this case arose from its radical redefinition of religious liberty to include the right to impose those beliefs on others.

This brief was drafted by Constitutional legal scholar Marci Hamilton. FFRF was joined by BishopAccountability.org, Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty (CHILD), the Child Protection Project, the Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse, Survivors for Justice, and the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

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Town of Greece v. Galloway (2013)

FFRF filed this amicus brief on September 23, 2013 in the Supreme Court. This case centered around the town of Greece, NY, which began scheduling prayers to open meetings starting in 1999. Up until that point, two-thirds of the prayers had been sectarian Christian. Two local residents challenged the prayer practice as unconstitutional, one of whom was Jewish and the other an atheist. 

The brief focuses on the argument of overturning Marsh v. Chambers, the 1983 decision that originally allowed for nonsectarian government prayer. It further explains that because legislative invocations are government speech that it is prohibited by the Establishment Clause.

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Matthews v. Kountze Independent School District (2012)

This amicus brief was filed in October 2012 in support of the Kountze Independent School District (KISD). The issue in the case arose after KISD hosted cheerleader banners with bible verses painted on them for the football team to run through during games. FFRF sent KISD a letter of complaint in September of 2012. The District adopted a new policy on banners and requested that the cheerleading squad stop putting bible verses on run-through banners.   Several cheerleaders then brought a lawsuit against the District.

FFRF’s brief focused on the argument that the cheerleaders’ banners were not an exercise of free speech. The brief argued that the banners were government speech as they were displayed in a context implying school endorsement and because the school had effective control over the messages.

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Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn (2010)

This coalition amicus brief was filed with the Supreme Court on September 22, 2010. The case involved tax credits for donations to groups that provide tuition payments to private, religious schools. The program started in 1997 and allowed dollar-for-dollar income tax credits for individuals who contributed to School Tuition Organizations.

This brief made the argument that the scholarship program was unconstitutional because it violates the Arizona and US Constitutions as they both prohibit government funding of religious institutions. 

This brief was drafted by Attorney Bob Ritter of the American Humanist Association. FFRF joined the brief alongside the American Ethical Union, Atheist Alliance International, Center for Inquiry, Council for Secular Humanism, Institute for Humanist Studies, Secular Coalition for America, Secular Student Alliance, Society for Humanistic Judaism, and Universalist Association. 

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Christian Legal Society v. Martinez (2010)

This coalition amicus brief was filed with the Supreme Court on March 15, 2010 in collaboration with like-minded organizations. The case centered around the formation of a Christian Legal Society (CLS) student club at the UC Hastings College of the Law (now UC Law San Francisco). The law school had a non-discrimination policy that required official student clubs to be open to all regardless of faith or sexual orientation. CLS sought an exemption from the non-discrimination policy on the basis that it had a statement of faith that included restricting marriage between a man and a woman. The law school refused to provide an exemption to the policy.

The amicus brief argued that CLS was allowed to have restrictions on their membership, however, they were not entitled to school approval of their discriminatory policies. Additionally, it argued that Hastings College of the Law’s non-discrimination was allowed because it was neutral and generally applied to every student group. 

This brief was drafted by Attorney Bob Ritter of the American Humanist Association. FFRF joined the brief along with The American Ethical Union, Atheist Alliance International, Institute for Humanist Studies, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, and Secular Student Alliance. 

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Satawa v.  Road Commissioners of Macomb County (2009)

FFRF filed this amicus brief with the Eastern District Court of Michigan on December 9, 2009 on behalf of the Macomb County Road Commission. The case centered around a nativity display that had been placed without a permit along a road in Warren, MI for the previous sixty years. The Road Commission requested the removal of the display to avoid the appearance of religious endorsement.  

This amicus brief argued that the Macomb County Road Commission was right to request the removal of the display. It explained that if the Commission allowed the display to stand that it would be an endorsement of religion and a violation of the Establishment Clause.

The brief was drafted and filed on FFRF’s behalf by Attorney Danielle J. Hessell of Butzel Long Law Firm.

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Salazar v. Buono (2009)

FFRF filed this amicus brief with the Supreme Court on August 5, 2009. At issue in this case was an effort to save a large cross on public land in the Mojave Desert through a land transfer. This cross was framed as a memorial for World War I veterans.

This brief focused on the fact that many veterans are not religious and did not feel represented by the religious message the cross conveyed. It explained that the Foundation’s own membership was made up of many veterans who identified as atheist or non-religious. It also argued that a land transfer was not a viable solution and the cross should have instead been relocated to a new piece of land. 

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Roe v. Rio Linda Union School District (2006)

The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed this Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Brief on July 21, 2006 in support of the removal of “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance. This case was brought by an atheist mother on behalf of her child as a challenge to the teacher-led recitation of the pledge and the “under God” language. 

This brief argued that due to the “under God” language the pledge is forced religious exercise and indoctrination. It also argues that required recitation of the Pledge created a religious requirement for participation in the government.

This brief was drafted and filed on FFRF’s behalf by Attorney George Daly. 

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McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky (2005)

FFRF filed this amicus brief with the Supreme Court on January 7, 2005 in support of the ACLU. The ACLU sued two Kentucky counties after they placed framed pictures of the Ten Commandments in their courthouses. After the counties received unfavorable rulings they added other historic and religious documents along with interpretive signs in an attempt to claim the documents were important to the founding of the United States.

This brief argued that the displays violated the Establishment Clause because they endorsed a particular religion. It also argued that the addition of other documents and signage did not negate the intrinsically religious nature of the Ten Commandments.

This brief was drafted and filed on FFRF’s behalf by Attorney James A. Friedman.

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Van Orden v. Perry (2004)

FFRF filed this Supreme Court amicus on December 13, 2004. At issue in this case was a Ten Commandments monument that was gifted to the state of Texas for display at the capitol.

This brief argued that the Ten Commandments display was a violation of the Establishment Clause because it gave the appearance of the state endorsing religion.

This brief was drafted and filed on FFRF’s behalf by Attorney James A. Friedman.

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Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow (2004)

FFRF filed this amicus brief in the Supreme Court in February 2004. This case was centered around a challenge to The Pledge of Allegiance in the Elk Grove Unified School District by Michael Newdow.

This brief argued that the Pledge was unconstitutional in a school setting and shouldn’t be recited regardless of whether or not students are willing. It goes on to argue that the “under God” language is harmful to students whose parents are raising them to be non-religious.

This brief was drafted and filed on FFRF’s behalf by Attorney Robert Tiernan.

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Newdow v. U.S. Congress (2003)

This Supreme Court brief was filed on July 25, 2003 in support of Michael Newdow. At issue in this case was the petition to remove “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance.

FFRF’s brief argued that having “under God” in the Pledge is unnecessarily divisive and unrepresentative of those who are non-religious. 

This brief was drafted and filed on FFRF’s behalf by Attorney Robert Tiernan.

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Koenick v. Felton (1997)

This Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals brief was filed in collaboration with other organizations on December 2, 1997. This case centered around the state of Maryland establishing Good Friday and Easter Monday as public school holidays.

This brief took the position that allowing these to be public school holidays is an Establishment Clause violation and endorses Christianity. FFRF had a particular interest in this case because of its successful 1996 challenge to Good Friday as a state holiday in Wisconsin. 

FFRF was joined in filing this brief by the National Council on Islamic Affairs, Americans for Religious Liberty, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the American Humanist Association and the American Ethical Union.

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Capitol Square v. Pinette (1995)

FFRF filed this Supreme Court amicus brief on February 23, 1995. This brief was filed in opposition to the Ku Klux Klan’s request to put up a cross on the state-house plaza in Columbus, Ohio, during the 1993 Christmas season.

This brief took the position that an unattended cross display is a violation of the Establishment Clause and it should not be permitted to be on public grounds. It argued that the First Amendment should not be applied to religious speech in this instance because it forced the government to endorse a particular religion.

This brief was drafted and filed on FFRF’s behalf by Attorney Robert Tiernan.

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