Pattern and Practice of Religious Activities Jeopardizes Religious Liberty
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 16, 2009
CONTACT: Hedy Weinberg, ACLU of Tennessee, (615) 320-7142
NASHVILLE – The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee (ACLU-TN) today filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee challenging the unconstitutional pattern and practice of religious activities in the Cheatham County School System.
Filed on behalf of two former students and two families of current students, the ACLU-TN lawsuit, John and Jane Doe et al v. The Cheatham County Board of Education et al., alleges a pattern and practice of the promotion and endorsement of religious activity dating back as early as 2001. This pattern and practice includes the distribution of Gideons Bibles in the class rooms, teacher-endorsed prayer before football games, and school-sponsored prayer at graduation ceremonies. The complaint also alleges the teaching of creationism and intelligent design as well as the display of a cross on the wall in a high school classroom.
ACLU-TN Cooperating Attorney George Barrett, on behalf of Barrett, Johnston & Parsley, said, “ We are happy to join with ACLU-TN in its continuing effort to protect the Constitutional rights of all citizens to practice their religious beliefs in the manner dictated by their individual conscious free of fear or coercion.”
ACLU-TN only filed this lawsuit after six months of negotiations with the school district failed to produce any change in policy. In fact, based on reports from the Doe plaintiffs, it appears as if the school-sponsored religious activities have only increased during the current 2009-2010 academic year.
Hedy Weinberg , ACLU-TN Executive Director said, “It is unfortunate that we had to go to Court to protect religious freedom but we had no other choice. This pattern and practice of school-sponsored religious activities in Cheatham County erodes the principle of religious freedom that is so central to our democracy.”
The Doe plaintiffs in the lawsuit are seeking a permanent injunction and order from the court declaring these practices unconstitutional and preventing them from reoccurring in the future.
A copy of today’s lawsuit is available here.