Freethought Today · Vol. 28 No. 10 December 2011

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

State/Church Bulletin December 2011

Full court to hear graduation case

The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit on Nov. 17 vacated a three-judge panel’s 2-1 ruling in September in favor of the Elmbrook [Wis.] School District and agreed to review the question of whether the district can hold graduation in a church.

The district has held graduation for years at Elmbrook Church, a nondenominational Christian church in the town of Brookfield, the Brookfield Patch reported.

Superintendent Matt Gibson had asked the church to cover a large cross above the graduation stage, but the church refused. Other religious symbols were present, and families sat in pews.

Elmbrook moved its graduation ceremonies back to the high school in 2010 after building a new fieldhouse. But the plaintiffs want to ensure ceremonies don’t return to the church in the future. The issue of holding public school graduations in religious settings had never been heard before at the federal appellate level.


High court rejects Bronx Faith appeal

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected on Dec. 7 the evangelical Bronx Household of Faith’s appeal to overturn New York City’s ban on after-hours religious services at public schools. The justices left in place a federal appeals court ruling that upheld the city’s policy.

According to the city, about 60 congregations used public schools for religious services in 2009.


German court nixes Muslim prayer room

Germany’s top administrative court has ruled that students don’t have the right to pray while in school if a religious conflict is created.

The court on Nov. 30 upheld a decision by a lower court which had denied that right to a Muslim student who had demanded a private prayer room at his Berlin high school. The court also said creating a separate prayer room taxed the space capacity of the school.


Mojave double cross doesn’t fool rangers

Federal rangers on Nov. 15 removed a cross Nov. 15 on Sunrise Rock in the Mojave Desert east of Baker, Calif., the same spot where another cross was taken down in a legal battle over whether a religious symbol should be allowed on public land, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported.

To comply with a court order to remove Mojave Cross, placed on the rock in 1934 (and which proponents attempted to rebrand as a war memorial), the surreptiously placed new cross had to go, said Linda Slater of the National Park Service. “You can’t go putting things up in national parks,” she said.

The original cross was stolen last year.


Utah state troopers try to skirt ruling

Utah’s 14 memorial highway crosses got a makeover to stop their court-ordered removal, The Associated Press reported Nov. 18.

The Utah Highway Patrol logo was removed from the 12-foot-high crosses that bear the names of troopers who died on duty, UHP Association attorney Frank Mylar said.

“We’re hoping we can keep the memorials as much intact as possible but change them so that it complies with the [court],” Mylar said. “They really feel strongly that that without the cross, there’s no memorial.”

A three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ordered the crosses removed last year. The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear the case.


Lawsuit: Principal proselytized staff

A Clay County [Fla.] School District principal used her work email to proselytize and espouse her political views, including sending emails that called President Barack Obama a “jackass” and joked he had cousins in the Taliban, according to a lawsuit, the Florida Times-Union reported Nov. 29.

Patrick Capriola, an assistant principal at Bannerman Learning Center, claims in a federal lawsuit filed Nov. 18 that Bannerman Principal Linda Turner and the district violated the Constitution and his right to “be free of state-sponsored religion.”

Capriola alleges that at least 16 times, Turner emailed faculty asking them to pray and have faith in God and alerting them to religious petitions.

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