New Year, New Victories for Religious Liberty and Free Speech Across the Country
It may only be January, but in the past few weeks, the ACLJ has already scored multiple victories for religious liberty and free speech. Just like last year when we successfully defended the rights of a Christian fourth grader who was forbidden from discussing his faith at school, we’ve once again taken action for a Christian student – this time for expressing her belief that innocent unborn babies need protection. The ACLJ was contacted by the parents of a young girl in New Jersey who wore pro-life buttons to school and was told she could not talk to her fellow students about abortion. Imagine the confusion and feelings of alienation a young student experiences when school leaders tell them sharing their beliefs is wrong. We sent a letter to the school notifying them that this was a violation of the girl’s constitutionally protected rights. After receiving our letter, we were notified by the counsel for the superintendent that she would again be allowed to speak with her fellow students about abortion, as long as it didn’t materially and substantially interfere in the operation of the school. This is exactly what the law requires, and we are thankful for a quick victory. In Illinois, we stepped in for an employee of a federal agency who was ordered to remove a Bible verse hanging in his cubicle. All other employees in the agency were permitted to decorate their work space, but no one other than our client had been asked to take down their personal decorations. After the ACLJ sent a demand letter, the agency relented and our client was again able to display the verse. This remains an ongoing matter, as we are working to ensure our client will not have any negative disciplinary action as part of their employment record. Meanwhile also in Illinois, a teacher at a public school who put up a Christmas display consisting of Santa, a Christmas tree, elves, and a nativity scene, among other traditional items, was told to take the nativity scene down. Believing the school misunderstood the law, we sent a letter demanding it provide clarity on the law. Just recently, the school responded to our letter explaining that it will not implement any policy banning religious displays. When a health care company in Washington denied an employee a religious exemption to a mandatory vaccination policy, she reached out to the ACLJ. We supplied a legal information letter on religious accommodations for her to use during her appeal of the employer’s decision and she was successful. Now her religious beliefs will be accommodated. In Ohio, the ACLJ contacted the management company of an apartment complex via a demand letter regarding its discriminatory policy prohibiting religious displays on doors while permitting all non-religious displays after our client – a tenant – contacted us with concern regarding this policy. This sounded eerily similar to the plight of a client we successfully defended in Washington last year when her landlord demanded she remove a traditional scripture display from her front door. Fortunately just as in that case, this Ohio management company agreed to rescind its unlawful policy at not just this, but all properties it manages. The ACLJ will continue to defend the religious freedom and free speech across the country. But in each of these cases, we were only able to do so because the individuals affected reached out to us. If you or someone you know is experience some form of religious discrimination, contact us today at ACLJ.org/HELP .