By Jane Henegar, Executive Director, ACLU of Indiana

Jane HenegarFebruary 22, 2017

The First Amendment and existing federal and state law protect religious speech and mandate certain accommodations for religious exercise in government institutions. What the First Amendment does not permit is government endorsement of, or preference for, religious speech and subject matter in public schools.

By forcing public schools to introduce religious curricula and open up public for a for religious speech, HB 1024 puts teachers and school administrators at risk of violating the First Amendment. In sum, HB 1024 takes away the autonomy of school districts to avoid policies and practices that make them susceptible to legal challenges under the United States Constitution.

 

By Jane Henegar, Executive Director, ACLU of Indiana

Jane Henegar webNo doubt, the distinctions between the First Amendment's protections for an individual's free exercise of religion and the First Amendment's prohibition against government's endorsement of religion can be confusing and complicated. However, each of the arguments that Mr. Heck [ACLU declares 'war' on the Constitution, 12/18/16] presents has been addressed and squarely rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Here is what past U.S. Supreme Court decisions say about the issues surrounding the town of Knightstown's decision to place a cross on top of a Christmas tree in the town square:

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Updated: Dec. 13, 2016

On Dec. 12, Knightstown officials removed a religious symbol from the town square in response to a lawsuit filed Dec. 8 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana on behalf of Knightstown, Ind. resident Joseph Tompkins. The lawsuit challenges the Town of Knightstown's display of a Latin cross on a large evergreen tree on the square. The tree is also decorated with lights and ornaments in celebration of Christmas. The plaintiff, citing a violation of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, sought only to have the religious symbol removed, and did not seek monetary damages for the suit. Attorneys are looking at a resolution to this case.

In 1986, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in ACLU of Illinois v. City of St. Charles, affirmed a preliminary injunction stopping the City of St. Charles from displaying a cross on a television antenna that was on top of its fire department.

"The cross is the best known symbol of Christianity and Knightstown's prominent display of this symbol represents an establishment of religion in violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution," said Ken Falk, ACLU of Indiana legal director.

Click here for a copy of the lawsuit 

Click here for a copy of the Memorandum in Support for Motion of Preliminary Injunction

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
Oct. 31, 2016

Indianapolis — The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana today filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Bedford, Ind. resident who is challenging a newly enacted city ordinance regulating yard signs that has the effect of stifling his political expression. The lawsuit claims that the ordinance violates the First and the Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

 "The Ordinance's limitation of one general use sign on a resident's lawn is a particularly oppressive during election time when citizens wish to voice their support and opposition for multiple candidates and political issues." —Jan Menz, ACLU of Indiana staff attorney

The ACLU of Indiana filed the case against the City of Bedford on behalf of Samuel Shaw, who is seeking to stop the city from enforcing City Ordinance 15-2016, which was enacted in September.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
Oct. 25, 2016

Decision reverses trial court's order to dismiss, saying case managers have a right to bring an action to force DCS to comply with state law 

Indianapolis – Today the Court of Appeals of Indiana handed a victory to case managers at the Indiana Department of Child Services more than a year after they filed a class action lawsuit challenging the failure of DCS to adequately staff the agency as required by law.

In July, 2015, the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana brought the class-action lawsuit against DCS on behalf of case manager Mary Price and other case managers for violating Indiana Code § 31-25-2-5, which mandates the maximum number of caseloads case managers may have. Today's decision reverses the trial court's Feb., 2016 order to dismiss the lawsuit, saying that case managers have a right to bring an action under mandate to force DCS to comply with the statutory caseload maximums. The case has been remanded to the trial court.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Oct. 3, 2016

Indianapolis – Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed a federal court ruling that prohibits the State of Indiana from taking any actions to interfere with or attempt to deter the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Indiana, including by withholding funds and services to resettlement groups and the refugees they serve.

"The Court of Appeals' decision underscores what we have said throughout this litigation," said Ken Falk, legal director of the ACLU of Indiana. "Governor Pence may not constitutionally or legally discriminate against a particular nationality of refugees that are extensively vetted by the federal government."

The lawsuit filed in November, 2015 was brought by Exodus Refugee Immigration, a nonprofit resettlement agency, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana and ACLU national, which said the state's actions to discriminate against Syrian refugees on the basis of national origin violate both equal protection and civil rights laws and intrude on authority that is exclusively federal.

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