Frequently Asked Questions
- What is Alliance Defending Freedom?
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building legal ministry that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
- Who are your Founders?
Recognizing the need for a strong, coordinated legal defense against growing attacks on religious freedom, more than 30 prominent Christian leaders launched Alliance Defending Freedom in 1994. Five exceptional men took a leading role in forming this legal ministry, and set the high standard of excellence and good stewardship that we continue to abide by today. They are the late Dr. Bill Bright, founder, Campus Crusade for Christ (now Cru); the late Larry Burkett, co-founder, Crown Financial Ministries; Dr. James C. Dobson, founder and chairman emeritus, Focus on the Family, and founder, Family Talk; the late Dr. D. James Kennedy, former senior pastor, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church; and the late Marlin Maddoux, former host, “Point of View” radio program.
- Why were you formed?
For decades, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and its allies used the courts to drive out public expressions of faith and to radically change America into something our Founding Fathers never intended. Religious freedom was rapidly eroding and a twisted view of the First Amendment was being advanced through the ACLU’s relentless campaign of fear, intimidation, and disinformation.
Despite outstanding efforts by many Christians, our Founders saw a battlefield in disarray with inadequate resources to win. There were allies, but no alliance. There was limited unity of effort and limited common strategy. There was also no organized method to recruit and train Christian attorneys in modern legal challenges, and inadequate funding allowed much territory to be lost by default. One big myth also emerged during this period: many believed that the ACLU and its allies could never actually be defeated.
- What does Alliance Defending Freedom do?
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building legal ministry that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith. Our Founders saw three primary areas where the battle was most aggressively being fought to silence Truth. Those three core areas are what make up our primary scope of work today: the legal defense and advocacy of religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family. Our work in these three areas involves a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation.
- What does Alliance Defending Freedom not do?
Alliance Defending Freedom was founded for a unique purpose: to build an alliance of thousands of attorneys and like-minded organizations that would work together to defend and advocate for religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family. Therefore, we do not duplicate our allies' work, nor aid them in areas outside the scope of our mission.
- Why don’t you try to pass legislation or lobby government officials?
Alliance Defending Freedom was created to serve as an alliance-building legal ministry and not as a public policy organization, though we work with many excellent allied policy organizations on related legal issues. Many of our Founders were already involved in public policy and saw the special need for this ministry’s role in the judiciary.
Alliance Defending Freedom operates under the strict charter given to us by our Founders. We focus exclusively on legal cases and projects impacting religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family. While there are many worthy causes outside of these parameters, we must concentrate on these areas to most effectively achieve our mission. This means that, while we defend legislative initiatives pertaining to our mission in court, and join forces with allies in many legal endeavors, Alliance Defending Freedom is not a lobbying organization, so its lobbying activity is insubstantial. ADF attorneys regularly engage in non-lobbying activities, such as providing advice and expert testimony on proposed legislation when requested. ADF also frequently comments in various forums on the effects of proposed and enacted laws.
There are many fine organizations that focus on the legislative arena, and there is no need to duplicate their efforts. One of our founding ministries is Focus on the Family, which has established policy councils in almost every state. You may want to contact these organizations for help on state policy matters. On the national level, you may want to contact our allies with the Family Research Council.
- What is your mission statement?
Alliance Defending Freedom is a servant ministry building an alliance to keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel by transforming the legal system and advocating for religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family.
- How are you different from other organizations?
Alliance Defending Freedom is a unique organization in many ways; most notably, we are an alliance-building legal ministry, not just a legal organization. As an alliance, we use the unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to accomplish our purpose. Though other organizations may have their own litigation teams, no other organization in the world is using strategy, training, and funding at the level in which we are operating.
- I don’t want too much mail.
We understand that many people are concerned about their general mail volume – and not just what they receive from Alliance Defending Freedom. You may be pleased to know that we actually mail much less often than many national ministries. We want our friends and supporters to be informed and equipped to knowledgeably pray about our efforts because we know that ”apart from Christ, we can do nothing.” (John 15:5) Normally, we send our prayer letters monthly and our ministry publication three times per year to all who give a gift, unless they specifically ask not to be put on the mailing list.
If receiving mail is not the most convenient way to keep updated on our cases and projects, please feel free to call our offices at 1-800-835-5233 or use our contact form to let us know your mail preferences.
- Do you share my name or contact information with anyone else or any other group?
Your concern is our concern: Alliance Defending Freedom will handle your personal information with the utmost care and confidentiality. This ministry will never sell, rent, or make available your name for non-Alliance Defending Freedom purposes or information related to your gifts.
- How can I help?
The most important way you can help us is with your prayers and financial support. We know that “apart from Christ, we can do nothing.” (John 15:5) So, we would greatly appreciate your prayers for all our efforts. You can find a regularly updated prayer request list here. We also face well-funded opposition and would be honored by your gift of any amount. To stand with us financially, please click here, and know that we will maximize every penny we receive to advocate for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
Here are some additional ways you can help:
- Sign up for email alerts to stay informed on cases and projects that impact religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family.
- Direct Christian attorneys you know to our world-class constitutional law training program called Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Academy.
- Tell Christian students you know who are entering or considering law school to learn about our summer leadership development program called Blackstone Legal Fellowship.
- Inform your pastor, elders, or church leaders about the Alliance Defending Freedom Church Project by referring them to http://www.speakupmovement.org/church
- Refer college students you know to http://www.speakupmovement.org/Home/University, where they can learn more about their rights as Christian students on campus.
- Order our pamphlets and materials and help spread the word about the work of Alliance Defending Freedom to those you know.
- Be our eyes and ears in your community. If you think someone is in need of our legal assistance, tell them to call us at 1-800-835-5233.
- I’d like to work for Alliance Defending Freedom
We appreciate your desire to join our team! In order to find the most current listing of job opportunities, please visit the employment section of our website at http://www.alliancedefendingfreedom.org/Careers. If there is a position that is of interest to you, please follow the instructions to submit your resume and cover letter.
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A high-speed Internet connection is also recommended to download files with large sizes that are associated with watching a video.
- Why don’t all similar organizations simply merge into one?
We appreciate your question about the different ministries and organizations combining – or at least, working together – and so did the Alliance Defending Freedom Founders. Before this ministry was formed, our Founders saw allies, but no alliance. There was limited unity of effort and limited common strategy. Thus, Alliance Defending Freedom was formed to be not just a legal organization, but the desperately needed legal alliance. You can read more about how we meet this need by employing a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation.
The reason why all allied organizations do not simply “merge” and become one is similar to the reason why all “religious” organizations do not become one. Most legal organizations have very specialized roles; for example, two groups may deal with highly technical pro-life issues, another may deal only with zoning and local regulation of pornography. There are also areas of disagreement outside of the common mission areas. In addition, since most of the groups are faith-based, there can also be some theological differences that, while not affecting our common work, would make a “merger” unlikely.
Ultimately, almost every legal entity serves in a unique "niche." In reality, there is very little duplication or overlap by those participating in strategy through the alliance.
Click here to learn about some of our prominent allies.
- What is your relationship with the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ)?
Over the years, ACLJ lawyers have been a valuable part of the legal alliance. Many ACLJ attorneys have been trained at and participated in the Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Academy. We have also provided substantial funding for ACLJ cases related to our mission.
In addition, we have worked together with ACLJ in coordinating legal strategies on key cases within our scope since our founding, and though we have some common objectives, our ministries are very different. ACLJ is more broadly involved in policy and media, while Alliance Defending Freedom has focused more specifically on transforming the legal system through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.
- Why don’t you go on the offensive?
To answer in short—we are on the offensive. Together with our allies, Alliance Defending Freedom is taking the offensive against the ACLU and its allies to remove oppressive legal barriers to the free exercise of religion and to secure religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family for future generations.
Two excellent examples of aggressively shifting to offense are the Church and University projects.
The Church Project will unleash the voice of the Church through the coordinated efforts of Pulpit Freedom Sunday, The Pulpit Initiative, and other measures. The Church Project has been shaping a legal environment in which churches and pastors are free to speak, act, and minister in accordance with biblical principles, without fear of government censorship, punishment, unlawful regulation, or loss of their tax-exempt status. Learn more at http://www.speakupmovement.org/Church.
The University Project is an aggressive campaign to restore religious liberty to our nation’s public university campuses. It will dramatically reshape the legal environment at public universities for Christian and conservative students and faculty. Learn more at http://www.speakupmovement.org/Home/University.
Alliance Defending Freedom is also transforming the legal system by equipping Christian attorneys and law students to defend religious freedom through our world-class training programs. To date, more than 1,600 Allied Attorneys have received constitutional law training at the Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Academy, and more than 1,000 law students have graduated from the Blackstone Legal Fellowship leadership development program and will rise to positions of influence as lawyers, legal scholars, policy makers, and judges who can impact America’s legal system to ensure that justice and religious liberty prevail.
- Why don’t you just sue the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)?
Alliance Defending Freedom directly engages the ACLU and its allies in the courtroom on a regular basis, and by God’s grace, we regularly win. In fact, Alliance Defending Freedom and our allies have a record of winning eight of every 10 cases litigated to conclusion. Each of these victories helps to build legal precedents that make it more difficult for the ACLU and its allies to achieve their radical goals through the legal system.
We are sometimes asked why Alliance Defending Freedom doesn't simply sue the ACLU or one of its allies for religious discrimination. We must point out that we are unaware of any such legal grounds to sustain such a general lawsuit against the free speech rights of the ACLU and its allies. So it is instead through the unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation that Alliance Defending Freedom is protecting what we have, reclaiming what we’ve lost, and shaping a future where our nation’s laws protect religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family.
- Does the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) receive taxpayers’ money?
When the ACLU wins in certain federal lawsuits, they try to force the government to pay their attorneys’ fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988; payment of such fees usually comes out of the taxpayers’ pockets. The intent of the law was to encourage individuals to vindicate their civil rights, not to fund a misguided interpretation of the so-called “separation of church and state.” Yet that is exactly how the ACLU and its allies use the attorneys’ fee provision: to fund their lawsuits challenging issues such as Christmas concerts in public schools, prayer in city council meetings, Ten Commandments monuments, etc.
Congress has considered (but not enacted) corrective legislation that would clarify that § 1988 should not be used to fund so-called “separation of church and state” claims against public officials who acknowledge, or allow others to acknowledge, God on public property. If the law is amended, those actions could still be brought, but the possibility of the plaintiff recovering attorneys’ fees would be either reduced or entirely eliminated.
This issue is addressed fully in Chapter 6 of our book, The ACLU vs. America: Exposing the Agenda to Redefine Moral Values.
In the meantime, Alliance Defending Freedom will continue to oppose the ACLU and its allies in the courtroom. The more we defeat them, as our record of winning eight out of every 10 cases litigated to conclusion shows, the more we will set new legal precedents making it more difficult for the ACLU and its allies to achieve their radical goals through the legal system.
- The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) isn’t all bad… doesn’t it represent Christians sometimes?
This question regarding the ACLU representing Christians can best be answered through the words of the ACLU’s founder, Roger Baldwin. The following is taken from our book, The ACLU vs. America, page 17:
In addition, Baldwin developed the strategy – still used today – to occasionally defend a conservative to illustrate it was nonpartisan. And, as in the early days, the ACLU has a few associates who not only espouse a broad support of free speech, but will actually take steps, in a few times and places, to defend speech they personally disagree with. Yet the ACLU’s infrequent, even rare, defense of conservatives or orthodox and traditional persons of faith is often just a tactic to advance its agenda for left-wing causes. *As Baldwin noted in 1934, “If I aid the reactionaries to get free speech now and then, if I go outside the class struggle to fight against censorship, it is only because those liberties help to create a more hospitable atmosphere for working class liberties.” William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and an expert on ACLU history, commented, “In other words, the occasional defense of right-wing extremists opens up the courts, thereby making it easier for the ACLU to defend its ideological kinfolk on the left.”
A copy of the book, The ACLU vs. America, can be ordered on www.amazon.com.
- Where does the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) get its funding?
The ACLU boasts of almost 400,000 dues-paying members, more than 2,000 volunteer attorneys, and 60 staff attorneys. In 2010, it had revenues of nearly $90 million. The ACLU Foundation has assets exceeding $407 million. The endowment fund includes a $7 million grant from the Ford Foundation (in 1999). The ACLU has also received an $8 million grant from Peter Lewis, the founder and CEO of Progressive Insurance, and $12 million from George Soros and the Open Society Institute. This incredible war chest is used to engage in legal intimidation and campaigns of fear and disinformation against the religious expression of Christians. It is also used to further the homosexual legal agenda, including attempts to force same-sex “marriage” on society through the court system. Furthermore, these monies have been used to convince courts to legalize abortion, restrict parental rights, and to side with sexually oriented businesses over children and families – along with many other positions in direct opposition to Judeo-Christian values.
The ACLU also relies upon the 42 U.S.C. s. 1988 law, which authorizes the recovery of attorneys’ fees from government entities when a plaintiff prevails in certain federal civil rights actions. The intent of the law was to encourage individuals to vindicate their civil rights, not to fund a misguided interpretation of the so-called “separation of church and state.” Yet that is exactly how the ACLU and its allies use the attorneys’ fee provision: to challenge issues such as Christmas concerts in public schools, prayer in city council meetings, Ten Commandments monuments, etc.This and other information regarding the ACLU can be found in the book The ACLU vs. America by Alliance Defending Freedom President, CEO, and General Counsel Alan Sears and Alliance Defending Freedom Vice-President of Research Craig Osten. A copy of the book can be ordered on www.amazon.com.
- Are donations to Alliance Defending Freedom tax deductible?
Alliance Defending Freedom is recognized by the IRS as a ministry exempt from taxation under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service Code, and gifts are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. We are not a private foundation and we continue to operate as a publicly supported organization as described in IRC Sections 509(a)(1) and 170(b)(1)(A)(vi).
- How are you funded?
Alliance Defending Freedom is entirely dependent on the generosity of our Allied Ministry Friends for our sustenance. We accept no government funds.
- What is your budget and where do funds go?
Our annual budget is $41 million. Funds were expended in the following percentages for our past fiscal year: 7% General & Administrative; 10% Development; 83% Programs.
Alliance Defending Freedom is a “no-debt” ministry, which means we only move forward with initiatives as God's people provide the resources in advance. We do not borrow operating funds and we only implement our programs based on available funds already in the bank. We retain funds committed to grants we have awarded for cases and projects in a designated account. An organization or attorney who is awarded a grant is not paid until the work or expenses are completed.
- Who keeps you accountable?
We are governed by a 13-member, non-paid, independent board of directors which has adopted principles of financial accountability, including strict internal controls, external and board oversight, and an Allied Ministry Friend Bill of Rights. Additionally, our annual IRS Form 990 is available online at www.guidestar.org.
We have been a member in good standing with the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) since 1995, the year Alliance Defending Freedom first became eligible to join. More about ECFA and its standards for membership are available on the ECFA website at http://www.ecfa.org/HomePage.aspx. Alliance Defending Freedom complies with individual state charitable registration requirements and also submits to an annual audit by an independent accounting firm.
- How can I receive copies of your financial reports?
Alliance Defending Freedom makes copies of its financial reports widely available in accordance with standards and guidelines established by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).Visit this link to download PDF copies of our audited financial statements and Form 990.
- Why did Charity Navigator lower your four-star rating to three stars in 2012?
The reason our four-star rating was lowered to three stars in 2012 is simple; Charity Navigator modified its evaluation process. Alliance Defending Freedom has not changed anything regarding the allocation of funds, including the accounting practices that helped us earn a four-star rating in the past. Numerous organizations have been affected by these changes. We are working with Charity Navigator to better understand their methodologies going forward.
- Why do you not belong to the Better Business Bureau?
Alliance Defending Freedom has chosen to belong to the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) and its Christian ministry standards of responsible stewardship. Alliance Defending Freedom has been a member in good standing with the ECFA since 1995 when the ministry first became eligible to join. More about ECFA, its standards for membership, and information about choosing a ministry to support are available on the ECFA website at http://www.ecfa.org/HomePage.aspx. Because of this, Alliance Defending Freedom does not typically attempt to keep track of other group’s standards, such as those of the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
- How much does each case cost?
Litigation is expensive; even filing a single brief as a “friend of the court” may cost upwards of $5,000 in attorney time and direct costs. When litigating a case as a full party to the lawsuit, costs may range from $10-20,000 for a simple case that requires little fact-finding and uncomplicated legal briefing. If a full trial is required, costs will escalate toward six figures, and if the case progresses through the Appeals Court, to the U.S. Supreme Court, and then back to the District Court (perhaps more than once), then the costs will range into the millions.
Alliance Defending Freedom seeks maximum return on every dollar invested. We have trained more than 1,600 attorneys through our Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Academy program and, in return, attorneys make a faith commitment to provide up to 450 pro bono/dedicated hours of service to the Body of Christ. Some attorneys have given above the 450 hours and, to date, this program has contributed to more than $141 million of pro bono legal work.
- Why do you maintain cash on hand?
Alliance Defending Freedom policy only allows us to move forward with initiatives as God's people provide the resources in advance. We retain funds designated for the grants we have awarded for cases and projects in a separate account. An organization or attorney who is awarded a grant is not paid until the work or expenses are completed. Therefore, accountability is built into the process.
Under the early leadership of the late Alliance Defending Freedom Founder and Financial Counselor Larry Burkett, the ministry adopted the policy of "raising money this year for what we plan next year." This means that for each of the Alliance Defending Freedom programs – Blackstone Legal Fellowship law student training, Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Academy attorney training, case grants, etc. – Alliance Defending Freedom raises the money before it signs contracts, commits to enroll students, or funds a case. This also means the ministry is an exemplary witness of keeping its commitments.
- How can I receive a grant for a legal case?
- Questions about a particular case?
Most details about our cases involve confidential information protected by the attorney-client privilege; we therefore cannot ethically respond to every question in full. An excellent source of information for most of our cases is found through our Alliance Defending Freedom news releases which may be found at http://www.adfmedia.org/. If you have a general question or need further assistance, send us a message using the appropriate contact form found here.
- Need legal assistance?
If you are involved in a possible legal situation or think you might need legal assistance, please contact our Legal Intake team or call 1-800-835-5233.
- Why is there such a false understanding of the “separation of church and state” in our society?
America was founded on the pursuit of religious liberty, including the liberty to acknowledge God and to pray in the public square.
This liberty originates in higher law, or “the laws of nature and of nature's God,” as the Declaration of Independence puts it. In the words of Rabbi Daniel Lapin, the Founding Fathers modeled themselves “upon God's ancient people” and “wrote what they considered to be a modern-day interpretation of the basic biblical principles of government.”
Those principles demand a place for religious expression in the public square. Unfortunately, radical advocates have long been trying to re-write the Constitution by making the First Amendment say something it doesn't. The First Amendment plainly forbids the creation of a national denomination, because that would be an “establishment of religion.” It says nothing about the so-called “separation of church and state.”
Even those who agitate to remove the Ten Commandments monuments or bar volunteer prayers at government meetings – when pressed – acknowledge that the so-called “separation of church and state” is not in the Constitution.
- Do you defend only Christians?
The free exercise of religion is America's "First Liberty,” and is both a fundamental and inalienable right. Alliance Defending Freedom Founders believed that America was in desperate need of a unique Christ-centered legal alliance dedicated to dramatically elevating legal efforts to defend and preserve the right of people to freely live out their faith – a right that was slowly and methodically being eroded away through the legal efforts of the ACLU and its allies. Because the principles of religious freedom apply broadly, Alliance Defending Freedom has assisted people of other faith traditions in the past when it advances our common cause for religious freedom. In extremely rare situations, Alliance Defending Freedom has assisted persons who claim no particular faith when the legal principle is crucial and prevailing in the case – and will advance the ministry’s mission. Whether a particular case is accepted for representation depends on its alignment within our mission and the capacity of our team.
Sanctity of Life
- What is the position of Alliance Defending Freedom on abortion?
Alliance Defending Freedom is unapologetically pro-life and believes that God is the author and creator of all life. We believe this requires all believers to work together toward fostering a culture of life, where all life is sacred – from conception to death.
Unfortunately, we live in an age where life is regarded with apathy. We believe this ambivalence has led to legalized abortion on demand, as well as efforts to legalize assisted suicide. As a result, human life is cheapened and society at large is harmed. Alliance Defending Freedom does not condone illegal violence used to defend the sanctity of human life.
- Why doesn’t Alliance Defending Freedom sue to overturn Roe v. Wade?
In short, at this time it is not possible to mount a successful legal challenge to the 1973 case that effectively legalized abortion – Roe v. Wade. It is instead through this ministry’s unique combination of strategy (with allies on pro-life issues), training (of future pro-life judges), funding (of the pro-life cases and projects of allies), and litigation (of Alliance Defending Freedom pro-life clients and situations) that we strive to see our nation’s laws once again affirm and respect human life.
- If you are not overturning Roe v. Wade right now, how else is Alliance Defending Freedom protecting and advancing the sanctity of life?
We actively work to oppose partial-birth abortion and all other forms of abortion on demand, as well as the public funding of abortion. We oppose methods of "research" or "family planning" that require the taking of human life and any efforts to legalize euthanasia. We defend pharmacists’, nurses’, and doctors’ rights of conscience to not be forced to assist in the taking of innocent life. We also defend the free speech rights of pro-life demonstrators, and support the legality of parental notification and informed consent laws.
Marriage and the Homosexual Agenda
- How do I find more information and resources on marriage and the homosexual agenda?
Alliance Defending Freedom vigorously defends marriage between one man and one woman. Additionally, there are many allies who focus on topical and tactical questions regarding same-sex “marriage” and homosexual behavior. We suggest you consider visiting the websites of the following allies:
- What can I do for a family member caught in a struggle with homosexual behavior?
We suggest you consider contacting one of the following ministries that specialize in meeting the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of people struggling with homosexual behavior:
- How do I find information and resources for my church and pastor?
Information and resources for your church and pastor can be found on our Church website: www.speakupmovement.org/Church/
- How do I invite Alliance Defending Freedom to come and speak at my church?
Complete the Speaker Invitation Request form here.
- Are churches allowed to worship in public school facilities?
Yes. In victorious cases litigated by Alliance Defending Freedom and its allies, it has been made clear that if a school allows access to public facilities to private groups, it cannot deny access to a religious group. This applies equally to churches conducting worship services. For example, if a civic club is allowed to meet, the state can't deny a church the right to meet on the same terms as the civic club.
***If you are facing a circumstance that prompted this question, please call our office at 1-800-835-5233 or click here to tell us more about the specifics of your situation.
- What are the guidelines for what a pastor can say from the pulpit about state and federal elections?
You can learn more about this issue at www.speakupmovement.org/Church/LearnMore/Details/3767
- Are students allowed to bring the Bible to school?
Yes. There is no legal authority that allows a public school to "ban" its students from possessing a Bible on campus – from kindergarten on up. Students may read their personal Bibles during non-instructional time and may use them as a resource for class assignments – when that use squarely meets the academic purpose for the assignment – in all but the most rare situations.
***If you are facing a circumstance that prompted this question, please call our office at 1-800-835-5233 or click here to tell us more about the specifics of your situation.
- Is it legal for a student to pray at school?
Yes. A student has the right to pray at school. However, it is important to remember that prayer – just like any form of speech – cannot be done in a way that disrupts the classroom. Students can certainly pray quietly, and it is permissible for several students to pray together. The general test is whether it causes a significant disruption of the school’s educational duties. Assuming it does not, there should be no prohibition against praying on campus.
***If you are facing a circumstance that prompted this question, please call our office at 1-800-835-5233 or click here to tell us more about the specifics of your situation.
- Under current case law, is prayer at public school graduation ceremonies constitutional?
In most of the United States, prayer at public school graduation ceremonies is constitutional. Student speakers, such as valedictorians or salutatorians, can incorporate a prayer or other religious sentiment into their presentations. However, under current guidelines, the school system, its employees, teachers, and officials must not be involved in determining whether to have prayer, selecting the prayer itself, or selecting the person to present the prayer. Nor may students collectively decide whether to have prayer. However, a deviation from this national standard stems from one case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. That court held, in a disturbing ruling, that school officials could censor religious speech from a valedictorian's graduation address. In Cole v. Oroville Union High School District, 228 F.3d 1092 (9th Cir. 2000), a valedictorian composed a speech which included many references to Jesus Christ. The school principal, who reviewed all student speeches to be given at graduation ceremonies, forbade the valedictorian from delivering the speech as written, and instructed him to purge the "sectarian" language. The valedictorian refused to do so and the principal accordingly refused to allow him to deliver his address at the ceremony.
The Ninth Circuit held that the principal's censorship was required to avoid an Establishment Clause violation. Ignoring the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court has never upheld a free-speech violation on Establishment Clause grounds, the court held that because the school district retained "plenary control" over the graduation ceremony, any religious speech occurring from the podium would be attributable to the state and would therefore constitute an impermissible endorsement of religion.
Even though the Ninth Circuit's decision in Cole flies in the face of established free-speech principles and is nothing less than judicially endorsed viewpoint discrimination, it currently may be applied to school districts in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands.
- Why does Alliance Defending Freedom support school choice?
We are often told, “If we allow public tax money to be used in private, Christian schools, it could open up the door to government involvement and control.”
Some concerns about school choice are legitimate, and it will take a great deal of vigilance from Christians and Christian legal groups to make sure that choice, such as vouchers, does not open the door to government regulation of private, Christian schools, and home schools. However, we see school choice as allowing such Christian schools to compete on a level playing field with secular schools, and as a step to undercut the highly secularized, radical agenda of the National Education Association, its allies, and its philosophy. Ultimately, parents’ right to control their child's education must be protected. It is our hope and prayer that vouchers will also open the door to tax credits for those who pay tuition to private schools, or to those who pay taxes yet choose to school their children at home. Alliance Defending Freedom understands that some Christian schools may elect not to participate in voucher, tuition aid, or tax credit programs – but that should be the free choice of the school, not one made by a government official.
- Can students present books or videos of a religious nature for class assignments or show-and-tell?
When the student is allowed to bring in a book or video of their choosing for an assignment or show-and-tell, religious books or videos should not be subjected to discrimination.
- Are Bible studies allowed at work if one does them on his or her own time (i.e., before or after work)?
Yes. Voluntary Bible studies can be permitted at the work place. Non-religious employers cannot generally require people to attend or base job performance evaluations on whether they are attending the Bible study.
- I've been the target of religious discrimination at work. Can Alliance Defending Freedom assist me?
Government employers are required to respect the First Amendment rights of their employees. Private employers must respect religious liberties under the law known as Title VII. The good news is that neither public nor private secular employers may discriminate on the basis of religion.
However, to steward our limited resources, our Board of Directors has decided that Alliance Defending Freedom will not pursue Title VII (private employer) cases at this time. Depending on the facts of your situation, we may be able to put you in touch with an attorney who will handle your case, as Alliance Defending Freedom works with nearly 2,200 Allied Attorneys around the country. For more information on Title VII and religious discrimination, visit the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website at http://www.eeoc.gov/types/religion.html.
IMPORTANT: If you are employed by a government entity and have experienced religious discrimination at your job, please contact us at 1-800-835-5233 or complete our legal help form and tell us your story. Alliance Defending Freedom may be able to resolve the First Amendment issues in your situation.