Two years ago this week, Jessica Ahlquist’s life changed forever. On January 11, 2012, a federal judge ordered the removal of a “School Prayer” banner at Cranston High School West in Cranston, Rhode Island, saying that it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Ahlquist—then a 16-year-old student at Cranston High School West—was a plaintiff in Ahlquist v. Cranston and effectively became its public face, appearing on CNN and in the New York Times. Ahlquist’s involvement in the lawsuit made her the target of a massive backlash—local florists refused to deliver flowers to her, hate mail poured in and Ahlquist needed police escorts, and Rhode Island State Representative Peter G. Palumbo (from Cranston) called her “an evil little thing” in a radio interview. The outcry against Ahlquist would have been a lot for anyone to handle, let alone a high school student. But Ahlquist stood her ground and emerged as a prominent activist for the separation of church and state, and to this day she continues to have a large number of supporters.
(RNS) The toys collected by Operation Christmas Child come with an invitation for recipients to accept Christianity. Since its founding in 1993, Operation Christmas Child has sent 100 million boxes of toys to poor children.
(RNS) The ban was met with opposition from the conservative legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, which sent the school board a letter charging that the district lawyer who advised the ban had misunderstood federal rulings on related cases.
LOS ANGELES (RNS) “Our children are not religious guinea pigs and should never be subjected to such misguided religious experimentation,” said Dean Broyles, president of the National Center for Law and Policy.
SAN FRANCISCO (RNS) In a move that could have wider implications, a federal appeals court ordered a lower court judge to consider preventing state officials from requiring parolees to attend rehabilitation programs that are focused on God or a “higher power.”
(RNS) U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman ruled that the Freedom from Religion Foundation “has standing to seek an order requiring the IRS to treat religious organizations no more favorably than it treats the Foundation.”
WASHINGTON (RNS) The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that the Greece (N.Y.) Town Board violated the separation of church and state when it repeatedly used Christian clergy to conduct prayers at the start of its public meetings.
EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (RNS) City officials say a new $100 “annual registration fee” will help defray the costs of building safety inspections. Pastors, however, say it’s a tax by another name, and possibly unconstitutional.
WILMINGTON, N.C. (RNS) A resolution aiming to give North Carolina the freedom to defy the Constitution and establish its own religion won’t get a vote in the N.C. General Assembly, but religious minorities say it’s a dangerous sign for a majority-Christian state with a growing minority population.
HARRISBURG, Pa. (RNS) A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by an atheist group that challenged a “Year of the Bible” resolution passed early this year by state lawmakers, but also questioned whether the resolution should have been adopted at all. By Matt Miller.