Complaints? We’ve had a few, but not too few to mention

FFRF legal staff was extremely busy sending out letters of complaint in August, as well as spending time being interviewed by media about situations where FFRF has intervened, often at the request of local complainants. Some may have been remedied already. 


Contact: Folsom Cordova Unified School District, Rancho Cordova, Calif., Aug. 1.

Violation: Follow-up letter from June asking the district to address a third instance of a sign advertising a church on school grounds. The church rents space in a high school, but the sign was displayed well before the actual rental time.

Contact: North Carolina Office of Charter Schools, Aug. 1.

Violation: Wilson Preparatory Academy, a public charter school in Wilson, N.C., hosted an informational meeting for parents and students in the sanctuary of Raleigh Road Baptist Church. A pastor started the meeting with the Lord’s Prayer at the request of the school founder, who also repeatedly asked parents if he “could have a witness” throughout the meeting. 

Contact: Academy District 20, Colorado Springs, Colo., Aug. 4.

Violation: The head football coach at Pine Creek High School instituted mandatory prayers for team members and either led them or told another coach to do so. He also reportedly told students that “football is God’s game.”

Contact: DeSoto County Schools, Hernando, Miss., Aug. 4.

Violation: “Jesus Loves Me” and “In God We Trust” signs were displayed in the counseling office at Lake Cormorant Middle School.

Contact: City Council, Chico, Calif., Aug. 4.

Violation: The council refused to let an atheist give an invocation and emailed FFRF the criteria. FFRF responded later that day, pointing out that criteria were applied inconsistently and detailing why the requirements burdened free speech.

Contact: Bay District Schools, Panama City, Fla., Aug. 5-6.

Violation: The district invited pastors to counsel students after several fatal shootings in the area. More than 30 pastors wanted to participate. The school district attorney responded, claiming pastors were just one of many community representatives who would be present on the first day of school to support students. FFRF wrote back to say that while it was fine to invite members of secular community groups, pastors should be disinvited.

Contact: Boerne ISD, Boerne, Texas, Aug. 6.

Violation: The Boerne High School football coaches and players’ parents participated in a weekly bible study in which they wrote religious notes to an assigned team member. They then decorated the locker room with scripture, blessed the lockers and delivered the notes to players’ lockers.

Contact: DeKalb County, Ga., Board of Registrations and Elections, Aug. 6.

Violation: A church sanctuary with many pictures of Jesus was used as a polling place.

Contact: Alexander Central School District, Alexander, N.Y., Aug. 6.

Violation: The district stopped holding prayers at graduation, but implied the decision came from the student body, not the district, raising concerns that the district might allow a different student body to decide to hold prayer in the future. The superintendent responded Aug. 14, claiming that was not the case, that it had been the district’s decision.

Contact: Tom Schedler, Louisiana secretary of state, Aug. 7.

Violation: A University of Louisiana-Lafayette police officer was denied a request to renew his oath of office with the line “so help me God” crossed out. His superiors delayed the signing of the form while they consulted Schedler’s office, which informed them they would not accept the modified form. 

Contact: Frisco ISD, Frisco, Texas, Aug. 7.

Violation: Rebuttal to a school board which justified continuing prayers under Greece v. Galloway.

Contact: Anderson County Schools, Clinton, Tenn., Aug. 8.

Violation: The music teacher at Lake City Elementary School regularly taught her students religious songs, including “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho.”

Contact: Okaloosa County, Fla., Sheriff’s Office, Aug. 8

Violation: The office had several chaplains, whom the sheriff described as a “spiritual lifeline,” providing marriage and other counseling for employees.

Contact: St. Charles Parish Board of Education, Metairie, La., Aug. 8.

Violation: Rebuttal to a school board which justified continuing its prayer practice under Greece v. Galloway.

Contact: Jackson-Madison County Schools, Jackson, Tenn., Aug. 8.

Violation: The district held a mandatory in-service at West Jackson Baptist Church. The school’s attorney had assured FFRF that he would investigate covering/removing religious materials and that there would be no members from the church present and no religious content. FFRF’s complainant reported that the church’s pastor was present and was invited to deliver an invocation, with crosses displayed throughout the sanctuary.

Contact: U.S. Postal Service office, Katy, Texas, Aug. 8.

Violation: Every month, two stacks of a religious newspaper called “The Good News Just Keeps Coming” were left on a bench in violation of regulations.

Contact: U.S. Postal Service office, Redondo Beach, Calif., Aug. 8.

Violation: Copies of a Christian business directory were available in a magazine rack attached to the wall in violation of regulations.

Contact: Pelham City Schools, Pelham, Ala., Aug. 11.

Violation: School board meetings started with prayer led by a board member. A mandatory meeting for all employees was held at First Baptist Church, where the pastor started the meeting with prayer and invited everyone to a revival service.

Contact: Indian River County Schools, Vero Beach, Fla., Aug. 11.

Violation: The school board invited pastors to give invocations or have board members offer prayers, which were often sectarian.

Contact: 16 Texas public charter schools and school districts, Aug. 12-13, Aug. 18.

Violation: Schools participated in the Texas Christian Athletic League, a private, explicitly Christian league, which says, “We dedicate ourselves to encourage Christian values.” The league uses religious images and prayer at events.

Contact: Farmington Area Public Schools, Farmington, Minn., Aug. 13.

Violation: Elementary schools go annually to Feed My Starving Children, an overtly Christian charity. The students box food and are then asked to pray over the food they have packaged.

Contact: Wilson County Schools, Wilson, N.C., Aug. 14.

Violation: Jones Elementary School planned to host a “Backpack Prayer Service” at which “Education and faith leaders will gather to pray for the 2014 Back-to-School Fair.” Students will receive backpacks as part of the Wilson Education Partnership, which “links schools with the faith community.”

Contact: Beaverton, Ore., School District, Aug. 15.

Violation: Hazeldale Elementary School partnered with Cooper Mountain Presbyterian Fellowship to run the “Summerhawks Drop In Program,” a summer program at the school. A flier advertised “Positive character traits according to Jesus,” and T-shirts included logos for the school and the fellowship.

Contact: Jackson County Commission, Scottsboro, Ala., Aug. 15.

Violation: The commission was considering a proposal to display the Ten Commandments, along with the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, in a “historic” documents display.

Contact: Presiding judge, Breathitt County Courthouse, Jackson, Ky., Aug. 15.

Violation: A large, framed picture of Jesus was displayed in the main entranceway of the courthouse with a caption reading, “In your place what would Jesus do?”

Contact: Internal Revenue Service, Aug. 15.

Violation: Whitworth Memorial Baptist Church, Nashville, Tenn., placed political campaign signs on its grounds.

Contact: U.S. Army Installation Management Command, Washington, D.C., Aug. 15.

Violation: The army has a de facto policy allowing bibles in military-run hotels.

Contact: Bartlett City Schools, Bartlett, Tenn., Aug. 15.

Violation: The newly formed district held an employee meeting in the sanctuary of Bartlett Baptist Church underneath a large cross. The next day, a community-wide “Kickoff and Pep Rally” was held at Bartlett United Methodist Church. Both events featured student performances.

Contact: AKA Entertainment & Media, Greensboro, N.C., Aug. 15.

Violation: AKA operates food and music festivals. After an FFRF victory on a church bulletin discount at one RibFest, one in a different location was still offering the discount.

Contact: Splashdown Water Park, Spokane Valley, Wash., Aug. 18,

Violation: Admission to the park was $10, including tax, on Sundays with a church bulletin, reduced from the $16.99 plus tax regular admission.

Contact: Waller ISD, Waller, Texas, Aug. 19.

Violation: The district held a mandatory employee convocation, which began with a prayer given by a school board member, who is also a Christian pastor, and closed with a prayer given by a junior high principal.

Contact: Gwinnett County Schools, Suwanee, Ga., Aug. 19.

Violation: The district held a religious assembly at Parkview High School featuring Pastor Kevin Queen of 12 Stone Church. Queen described his “job” as “to tell the same basic and best story in many different ways, represent the Kingdom, and invite people to life with Jesus.”

Contact: Kaufman ISD, Kaufman, Texas, Aug. 20.

Violation: For the second year in a row, the district included prayer at its annual employee convocation, this year given by Pastor Chacko of Grace Christian Church.

Contact: Tipton Community School Corp., Tipton, Ind., Aug. 20.

Violation: Tipton High School displayed the Ten Commandments in a hallway with school photos.

Contact: Mayor of York, Pa., Aug. 20.

Violation: For five years, the mayor has hosted a city-organized conference, “FaithNet,” for local faith-based organizations. The events were attended almost exclusively by Christian pastors. The 2013 keynote speech was essentially a Christian sermon.

Contact: Vidor ISD, Vidor, Texas, Aug. 21.

Violation: Christian prayers are broadcast over the loudspeaker at Vidor High School football games. In addition, a teacher has publicly boasted about proselytizing to students during the school day, writing online, “I personally love my job as a public school teacher b/c I am able to talk with many kids about Jesus.”

Contact: Baldwin County, Ala., Aug. 21.

Violation: A monument displayed in front of the Baldwin County Courthouse in Bay Minette is “Dedicated to the glory of God and in honor of the veterans of all wars.”

Contact: Emmanuel County Schools, Swainsboro, Ga., Aug. 21.

Violation: Teachers at Swainsboro Primary School regularly lead students in prayer. Two teachers ask their students to bow their heads, fold their hands and pray before lunch. The complainant family alerted the principal to this issue, after which the complainants’ children were made to sit in the hallway while the rest of the class prayed. One child felt the teacher “used her mean voice” when asking the child to wait in the hall.

Contact: Internal Revenue Service, Aug. 21.

Violation: Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Fla., distributed a sample ballot for local elections which had “suggested candidates” marked.

Contact: Conemaugh Valley Board of Education, Johnstown, Pa.; South Butler County School Board, Saxonburg, Pa.; Northern Bedford County School Board, Loysburg, Pa.; Aug. 22. Violation: The school boards start each meeting with prayer.

Contact: Toledo Public Schools, Toledo, Ohio, Aug. 22.

Violation: The district invited all employees to a “Back to School Bash” at Cedar Creek Church, where it had held at least one earlier event. The district’s chief academic officer said that since nobody was mandated to go, “people who would be uncomfortable at a Christian church can stay away.”

Contact: Millville Police Department, Millville, N.J., Aug. 22.

Violation: The department has a chaplain program consisting only of Christian ministers. The program is meant to “have a large focus on juveniles,” but also consoles families after tragedies and counsels officers in need. The chaplains have been given some enforcement authority, recently picking up juveniles violating curfew.

Contact: Putnam County Schools, Oklahoma City, Aug. 25.

Violation: The Kenneth Cooper Middle School office displayed a religious poster with an image titled “Faith in America” by Donald Zolan, which features two children with their hands clasped in prayer against an American flag background.

Contact: Tarrant County, Fort Worth, Texas, Aug. 25.

Violation: The tax assessor’s office changed its official office envelopes, adding “In God We Trust” on the back, and intends to add the phrase to next year’s tax statements.

Contact: Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., Aug. 25.

Violation: The village annually hosts a holiday display in VFW Park in December, which contains a nativity scene erected by a Catholic church, a menorah erected by a Chabad group and a Christmas tree erected and lit by the village.

Contact: Springfield Public Schools, Springfield, Mo., Aug. 26.

Violation: Third graders at Wanda Gray Elementary School were given “take home” folders promoting a church. The front cover includes the school mascot, the name of the school, the office phone number and the school website. The back says the folder is “compliments of Seminole Baptist Temple,” lists the church contact information, and advertises evangelical Christian activities for students.

Contact: Stone Bridge High School, Ashburn, Va., Aug. 26.

Violation: The varsity girls tennis coach prayed with her students.

Contact: Seminole County Public Schools, Fla., Aug. 26

Violation: Seminole High School in Sanford reportedly allowed a pastor to serve as football team chaplain. The district responded to deny the claim.

Contact: Northern Tioga School Board, Elkland, Pa.; Blackhawk School Board, Beaver Falls, Pa.; Valley Grove School Board, Franklin, Pa.; Northern Potter School Board, Ulysses, Pa., Aug. 27.

Violation: The boards start monthly meetings with prayer.

Contact: Military Entrance Processing Station, Johnston, Iowa, Aug. 28.

Violation: A rack containing bibles and other Christian material was set up in the main lobby.

Contact: Madison County School District, Danielsville, Ga., Aug. 28.

Violation: Madison County High School unveiled a new monument in its stadium Aug. 22. The monument has two bible verses: Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me,” and Romans 8:31, “If God be for us who can be against us?”

Contact: Valley View ISD, Valley View, Texas, Aug. 29.

Violation: A teacher at Valley View Middle School distributed a tract to his students after teaching them about the Declaration of Independence. The tract was “Donated by Cooke County Republican Women” and encouraged readers to visit the website for the National Center for Constitutional Studies, a group which promotes religion under the guise of teaching American history. The website includes a list of reasons to oppose same-sex marriage and articles drawing connections between the Constitution and the bible.

Contact: Forney ISD, Forney, Texas, Aug. 29.

Violation: A student was punished for refusing to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance. The teacher stopped class and told the student that while he did not have to recite the pledge or salute the flag, he did have to stand. When the student did not stand, the teacher sent him to the principal’s office, where he received in-school suspension.

Contact: Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance, Madison, Aug. 29.

Violation: The office provided an “inadequate and unlawful response” to FFRF’s open records request regarding the office’s enforcement of contraception coverage requirements. The agency provided no responsive records, did not specifically state the public policy reasons for the refusal and did not either detail the records being withheld or state that there were no records.

— compiled by Maddy Ziegler

Freedom From Religion Foundation