The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits Congress from making any law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise of religion.... The Fourteenth Amendment, which states, "No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States...." applies these protections in the states.

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Elkhart County School's 2015 'Christmas Spectacular' Live Nativity Scene Ruled an Endorsement of Religion

A child and his father, along with the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the ACLU, won a preliminary injunction on December 2, 2015 to stop Concord Community Schools in Elkhart County from putting on a live nativity scene as part of its 2015 "Christmas Spectacular."

Public school curriculum must always serve a secular educational purpose.

The ruling, by Judge John DeGuilio of the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Indiana, said the live nativity scene as planned by the public school for its annual event violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by conveying an endorsement of religion.

In his decision, the Judge said, "A reasonable observer could perceive that the nativity scene is actually onstage for the religious message it conveys instead of as an outlet for the performing talents of the students or for the pedagogical value of its performance."

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Daniel Littlepage, a Native American, is a prisoner confined at the Miami Correctional Facility located in Bunker Hill, Indiana. His religion requires him, among other things, to pray with others in a Sacred Circle. John Walker Lindh, a prisoner at the Federal Correctional Institution in Terre Haute, Ind., practices Islam, which requires him to participate in group prayer. Paul Veal, a prisoner at the Pendleton Correctional Facility, is a practicing African Hebrew Israelite, a religion which mandates communal worship and study as a necessary component of creating a lifestyle that complies with the desires and commandments of God.

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In 2013, the City of Evansville agreed to erect a display of 31 six-foot-tall plastic crosses along a well-traveled stretch of Riverside Drive between Court Street and Locust Street, a popular destination for residents and visitors to the city.

The ACLU of Indiana filed suit on behalf of two Vanderburgh County, Indiana residents, arguing that the display violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which prohibits the state from endorsing a specific religion, or any religion at all. Five weeks after the suit was filed, Judge Sarah Evans Barker issued a ruling that held that the display, if it were erected, would convey an endorsement of religion in direct violation of the Establishment Clause.

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When the Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center decided to vacate its 21-acre site in downtown South Bend, Ind., St. Joseph's High School was the only prospect to step forward with solid interest in acquiring the site. The school wanted to build a new high school on the property with athletic facilities including a football field. In order to do that, the school also wanted to purchase an adjacent property, which was home to a Family Dollar store, but was unable to negotiate that purchase. In June 2011, the City of South Bend approved a plan to use $1.2 million in taxpayer funds to purchase the Family Dollar property with the sole intention of transferring the land to the Catholic Diocese, which operates the school, for $1.

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Long after the 1920s, when battles over evolution versus creationism raged in legislatures and courts across the country, the Indiana Civil Liberties Union (ICLU) won an important First Amendment victory against teaching creationism in public schools. An ICLU case in 1977, Hendren v. Campbell, ended with a ruling that a public school's use of a textbook about creationism was unconstitutional. "The question is whether a text obviously designed to present only the view of Biblical Creationism in a favorable light is constitutionally acceptable in the public schools of Indiana. Two hundred years of constitutional government demand that the answer be no," wrote the judge.

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