Mobile Menu

Legal Advocacy Victories

Washington yogurt shop ends church discounts (May 5, 2017)

Revelations Yogurt in Edmonds, Wash. will no longer be dishing up its party room free to church groups after FFRF contacted the establishment over its religious discrimination.

FFRF Staff Attorney Elizabeth Cavell wrote to the Revelations Yogurt management on April 27, after a customer gave FFRF the scoop on the business' tasteless deal promotions. The establishment charges $25 for all other nonprofit organizations for use of the party room.

The store manager informed FFRF on May 5 that she had been unaware of the violation and had removed the discounts from the website and store poster in response to Cavell's letter.

Bible distribution in Texas school to stop (May 4, 2017)

An evangelical group will no longer be invading Liberty High School in Frisco, Texas, after FFRF got involved with the state-church violation.

A parent of a student in the school district informed FFRF that members of Gideons International were permitted to enter the school's cafeteria during the lunch period to distribute bibles. FFRF was told that the Gideons were proselytizing rather aggressively, forcing bibles onto reluctant students.

FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover wrote to Liberty Independent School District Superintendent Cody Abshier on April 24 to ensure that the shocking and illegal bible distribution would not take place in the future.

FFRF received a response on May 4 from Abshier, who wrote that the district had spoken with some staff about the troubling incident. Abshier assured FFRF that there would be training this summer to address the concern districtwide.

Texas teacher gets constitutional lesson (May 3, 2017)

A teacher at Texas' Fannin Middle School will be promoting science rather than Christianity, thanks to FFRF's action.

Eric Sheen, an eighth-grade science teacher at the school, had been promoting anti-science curriculum and Christian propaganda. A concerned parent had informed FFRF that Sheen had showed his class a video clip from Ben Stein's pro-intelligent design film "No Intelligence Allowed," and made repeated references to students about his personal Christian faith. Sheen regularly encouraged students to embrace religion themselves, citing his personal "life-changing" experience with letting God into his life.

FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover wrote to Amarillo Independent School District Superintendent Dana West on April 7, informing the district that teaching creationism or any of its offshoots, such as intelligent design, in a public school is unlawful.

In a response on May 3, FFRF was assured that the situation had been investigated and thoroughly addressed.

Religious hymns silenced at Connecticut school (May 3, 2017)

Students at John B. Sliney Elementary School in Branford, Conn., will no longer be forced to sing religious songs after FFRF raised its voice in opposition.

It was brought to FFRF's attention that the school's music teacher, Ted Samodel, had been teaching spiritual songs to students. A concerned parent informed FFRF that her child was brought to the auditorium to listen to older students rehearsing for their music class.

One of the songs being performed was "Angels Watching Over Me," which contains pious lyrics.

FFRF Managing Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert sent a letter to Bradford Public Schools Superintendent Hamlet Hernandez on Feb. 9 requesting that Samodel be instructed to stop teaching young, impressionable students religious hymns.

Hernandez informed FFRF in a letter on May 3 that the district had addressed the issue with the music teacher and gave assurance that the situation would not occur again.

Florida school ends religious baccalaureate (May 1, 2017)

FFRF took action after being informed that a high school in Pierson, Fla., had scheduled a graduation ceremony at a church.

A member of the Volusia County School District informed FFRF that the T. Dewitt Taylor Middle-High School official website encouraged graduating seniors to attend a baccalaureate at the Community Christian Assembly. The invitation was deceivingly made to appear as if the religious event was a requirement for graduation.

FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel sent a letter to School Board Attorney Michael Dyer on April 10 denouncing the inappropriate level of school involvement in the religious ceremony.

On May 1, FFRF was informed by a district representative that the school would not sponsor the baccalaureate and that no school employee would be involved in the organization, planning or coordination of the services. FFRF was also assured that the event would not be advertised as being encouraged.

Texas school to address religious decorations (May 1, 2017)

McKinney North High School in Texas has been given a secular makeover after FFRF was informed of religious symbols and messages decorating the walls of hallways and classrooms in the school. These messages included a football poster with a biblical quote, a varied collection of crosses, an advertisement for a Christian club, and a large assortment of Latin crosses next to white boards, over entrances to classrooms and behind teachers' desks.

On April 12, FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover reminded the school district attorney, Charles Crawford, of a letter FFRF sent last year to the district outlining why Latin crosses and religious messages are impermissible displays by public school employees. Since the district's employees clearly did not follow through with removing the displays, Grover requested additional assurance that the recurring issue would be, at last, resolved.

On May 1, Crawford responded to Grover's letter informing FFRF that the district superintendent would address the displays.

Georgia school won’t promote religious group (April 25, 2017)

FFRF has taken on All Pro Dad, a religious organization, once again, this time at a Georgia elementary school.

A concerned parent of a student in the Barrow County School System contacted FFRF about the promotion of All Pro Dad events at Statham Elementary School through the school's website. The website directed visitors to a page that included religious messages and to an online shop that included T-shirts reading, "Pray and Worship Together" and "All Pro Dad."

FFRF Legal Fellow Madeline Ziegler, who sent a letter to the school district on March 31, noted that this religious promotion created an unnecessary wedge between students of the school. A response was received on April 25 from the superintendent informing FFRF that all mentions of the All Pro Dad program would be removed from the school calendar and that no school resources would be used to promote the program.

FFRF gets police station prayer display removed (April 13, 2017)

A huge prayer display has been removed from a Wisconsin police station thanks to FFRF intervening on behalf of the Constitution.

A concerned area resident contacted FFRF to report that the Onalaska Police Department had a large religious display on the wall of a public room in a local police station.

It is laudable for the police department to recognize the challenges officers face and to promote compassion and courage in law enforcement. But these sentiments should not be couched in the religious message that a god should be the officers' "guide" in their work, and is responsible for their success and safety, FFRF asserted.

"Displaying 'A Police Officer's Prayer' in the police station demonstrates a preference for religion over nonreligion on behalf of the Onalaska Police Department," FFRF Legal Fellow Ryan Jayne wrote to Onalaska Police Chief Jeffrey Trotnic in January. "By endorsing belief in a god, the Onalaska Police Department sponsors a religious message, which is 'impermissible because it sends the ancillary message to . . . nonadherents'" that they are not full members of the political community, to quote the U.S. Supreme Court.

Citizens interact with and rely on law enforcement officers during some of the most urgent and vulnerable times of their lives, FFRF reminded Trotnic. The Onalaska Police Department's religious display conveyed a message to nonreligious citizens that they weren't favored members of the political community. Law enforcement must be even-handed and avoid any appearance of bias toward some citizens or hostility toward others.

FFRF requested that the prayer display be removed immediately. The Onalaska Police Department recently informed FFRF that it has acceded to the organization's request.

"Dear Mr. Jayne: The item in question has been removed," Trotnic wrote back.

Montana youth minister deterred from schools (April 7, 2017)

Religious leaders will no longer be permitted to prey upon school children for proselytization in Montana's Missouri's Forsyth R-III Schools after FFRF raised alarm.

It was brought to FFRF's concern that a youth minister, Jeffrey Barrikman, from First Baptist Church, was given special access to students at Forsyth Middle School. Barrikman had been allowed onto school grounds as a "visitor," a privilege he used to sit and speak with children during lunch. Back in 2015, the district had been put on notice of similar recruitment tactics by First Baptist Church.

On March 31, FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott cautioned the school district against its unconstitutional endorsement of First Baptist Church and allowance of evangelization during the lunch period.

"This predatory conduct is inappropriate and should raise many red flags," Elliott wrote to Superintendent Jeff Mingus.

Mingus responded on April 7 informing FFRF that adjustments had been made to ensure that school visitors do not violate the separation of religion and school.

Soccer coach to stay hands and prayer-free (March 30, 2017)

A California high school soccer coach will be keeping his hands and blessings off athletes after FFRF blew the whistle on the constitutional foul.

It was brought to FFRF's attention by a concerned community member that the coach was leading his players in prayer before games, which involved the "laying of hands" ritual.

FFRF Legal Fellow Madeline Ziegler wrote to Los Banos Unified School District Acting Superintendent Dean Bubar on March 24. After receiving Ziegler's letter, the district looked into the matter and discussed the First Amendment violation with the coach. Bubar wrote to inform FFRF on March 30 that the coach assured the district he would refrain from promoting or participating in religious rituals during the next soccer season.