40th anniversary: Four decades of court victories

FFRF’s current legal team includes (front row, from left) constitutional attorneys Andrew Seidel, Elizabeth Cavell, Patrick Elliott, Legal Director Rebecca Markert, (back row, from left) Legal Assistant Whitney Steffen and constitutional attorneys Colin McNamara, Madeline Ziegler, Ryan Jayne, Sam Grover and Chris Line.

When education alone is not successful, and the circumstances are either egregious or the facts particularly promising, we go to court. FFRF has filed and completed well over 70 lawsuits, with a dozen ongoing and more in the planning stages, winning about two-thirds to date. FFRF couldn’t do it without its all-important local plaintiffs, who deserve an ovation!

Here is a recap of FFRF’s successful litigation over the years:

1977

Anne Gaylor v. United States Post Office

Federal lawsuit forces USPS to suspend nationwide religious cancellations for St. Vincent de Paul. Attorney: Karla Dobinski.


1984

FFRF, Jon Foust, Anne and Annie Laurie Gaylor v. University of Wisconsin

FFRF got the university to stop asking for and giving student contact info to area churches and campus ministries. Attorney: Richard Jacobson.


1993

FFRF, Colorado Chapter of FFRF, Robert Fenn and Lee Whitfield v. City and County of Denver

Successfully enjoined the Denver mayor’s office from co-sponsoring a Day of Prayer against Violence on Dec. 5, 1993. Attorney: Robert R. Tiernan.


Alabama Freethought Society, Roger Cleveland v. Alabama State Parks

State park system agreed to take down crosses, remove ‘chapel’ title from buildings and state maps, and give groups ‘first come-first service’ rights. Attorney: ACLU; Pamela Sumners.


1996

Alabama Freethought Society, Gloria Hersheiser, Al Faulkenberry  v. Judge Roy Moore

The chapter and members in Gadsden sued Moore as county judge for inflicting prayers on juries and erecting a Ten Commandments plaque in his courtroom. Won, thrown out on technicality in 1998 after interference of governor. Attorney: ACLU; Joel Sogol.


1997

FFRF, Anne & Annie Laurie Gaylor, Dan Barker, Samuel M. and Jennifer Essak, Richard Uttke and Michael Hakeem v. Tommy Thompson & John E. Litscher

FFRF overturned Wisconsin’s Good Friday holiday mandating worship between 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Good Friday and closing government offices at noon. Attorney: Jeffrey Kassel.


FFRF, Alan and Mary Porath, Floyd Olson, Esther Mattson v. Ozaukee County

FFRF mopped up its Good Friday victory to force county offices to stay open. Attorney: Jeffrey Kassel.


1998

Julie Wells and Jeff Baysinger v. Lochhead

Challenge of shrine commemorating mass by Pope John Paul II during his 1993 appearance at Cherry Creek State Park removes religious phrases, image of boy praying and pope blessing someone. Attorney: Robert R. Tiernan.


2000

FFRF and Clarence Reinders v. City of Marshfield, Wis.

Challenge of statue of Jesus with words ‘Christ Guide Us on Our Way’ in public park resulted in city selling land with shrine to Knights of Columbus, which had gifted shrine. Appeals court ruled sale did not remedy violation of shrine in public park, ordering erection of wall or fence with visible disclaimer. Attorneys: varied.


FFRF, Anne and Annie Laurie Gaylor, Dan Barker and Rev. Charles Wolfe v. Joe Leean and Susan Dreyfus

Nationally watched law to create and fund state coordinator to ‘assist’ clergy to develop ‘community-wide standards of marriage,’ ruled unconstitutional. Attorney: James Friedman.


2001

FFRF, Anne and Annie Laurie Gaylor, Dan Barker v. Mark D. Bugher, et al.

Appeals court upheld lower court ruling in favor of FFRF that direct cash grants to religious schools to reimburse them for internet linkage access is unconstitutional. Attorney: James Friedman.


2002

FFRF, Anne and Annie Laurie Gaylor, Dan Barker v.  Scott McCallum, et al.

FFRF wins first fully adjudicated federal lawsuit challenging direct funding of a faith-based agency, Faith Works, a Milwaukee group dedicated to bringing ‘homeless addicts to Christ.’ Attorney: Richard L. Bolton.


2004

John Doe, Mary Roe & FFRF v. Sue Porter, Rhea Co. Board of Education

The Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 51 years of bible instruction in Rhea Co. (Dayton, Tenn.) schools unconstitutional in ‘Scopes II,’ a practice started after the Scopes Trial. Attorney: Alvin Harris.


FFRF, Edith Paxman, Ron Calvert, James Soular v. Montana Office of Rural Health

FFRF successfully challenges funding and merger of two Montana state offices with the ‘Montana Faith-Health Cooperative.’ Attorney: Richard L. Bolton.


2005

Sue Mercier, Hank Zumach, FFRF & 20 others v. City of La Crosse, Wis.

In Round II of FFRF’s challenge of Ten Commandments marker in a public park in La Crosse, Wis., 22 individuals of no and various religious persuasions became plaintiffs. Following the suit, the city sold a small parcel of the park containing the marker to the Eagles, which had gifted the decalog originally. The city and Eagles were represented by Pat Robertson’s legal group. A resounding ruling by District Judge Barbara B. Crabb ruled against this sweetheart sale as a remedy. The appeals court approved the sale, but demanded more fences and disclaimers. Attorney: James Friedman.


FFRF, Anne and Annie Laurie Gaylor, Dan Barker v. Jim Towey, Director of White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives

Lawsuit forced HHS to discontinue funding MentorKids or other faith-based mentoring groups. Mentorkids USA was an offshoot of Watergate felon Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship Ministries. Attorney: Richard L. Bolton.


FFRF v. U.S. Department of Education

Federal funds of $435,000 earmarked for Alaska Christian College, an unaccredited bible college with 31 students run by Evangelical Covenant Church of Alaska, plus funds from previous grant were suspended. Attorney: Richard L. Bolton.


2006

FFRF, 7 Minnesota members v. University of Minnesota

Minnesota agreed to drop plans to sponsor a ‘faith health leadership course’ and to remove itself from a ‘faith health consortium’ intended to be a national model. Attorney: Richard L. Bolton.


FFRF, Anne and Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker v. Gonzales

The Federal Bureau of Prisons, following FFRF’s suit, dropped plans to set up ‘single-faith’ residential re-entry programs at one or more piloted institutions. Attorney: Richard L. Bolton.


2007

FFRF, Craig Gosling, John Kiel, Sean O’Brian and Diana O’Brian v. Indiana Family and Social Services

Suit ends first chaplaincy for state workers in nation, hiring pastor to bring ‘faith into the workplace’ for state employees in Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration. State abolished chaplaincy and fired chaplain, ending suit. Attorney: James Friedman and co-counsel.


FFRF, Doe, Doe Child, Roe, Roe Children, Zoe v. Cherry Creek School District

Challenged program, ‘40 Developmental Assets,’ linked to the Lutheran Brotherhood, including Asset 19 urging child to spend ‘one or more hours per week in activities in a religious institution.’ District agreed to add ‘secular (nonreligious)’ to the asset. Attorney: Robert R. Tiernan.


2009

FFRF, Gail and Wayne Vann, Taku Ronsman, Wendy Coriell, et. al, v. City of Green Bay, Wis.

Suit dismissed after city agreed not to continue putting a manger scene atop the entrance of city hall in Green Bay, Wis. Attorney: Richard L. Bolton.


FFRF, Annie Laurie Gaylor & Dan Barker v. State Superintendent of Public Instruction

Suit forces Rio (Wis.) school district to comply with state constitution and charge rent for after-school Child Evangelism Fellowship Group; CEF stops meeting in schools, case dismissed. Attorney: Richard L. Bolton.


FFRF v. Manitowoc County

Suit over nativity scene at Wisconsin county courthouse ends in Catholic group moving crèche to private land, although technically county agreed to public forum allowing nonreligous views. Attorneys: Richard L. Bolton; Rebecca Markert.


2012

Doe 1 and Doe 2 v. School Board of Giles County

Suit removed display of Ten Commandments on wall of district school, resulting in victorious federal court ruling. Attorneys: Rebecca Glenberg, Frank M. Feibelman (with ACLU of Virginia), Patrick C. Elliott.


FFRF. v. Town of Whiteville, Tennessee

Suit over cross atop water tower, and crosses in front of City Hall and on city-owned sidewalk results in removal of one arm of cross atop water tower and injunction against installing crosses on city hall property. Attorney: Alvin Harris.


2013

Doe 1, 2, 3 v. Jackson City (Ohio) School District

Lawsuit removes painting of Jesus from middle school in Jackson, Ohio. ACLU attorneys James L. Hardiman, Michael Honohan; Rebecca S. Markert.


FFRF, Sari Dworkin v. City of Pismo Beach

City halts all prayer and abolishes position of ‘city chaplain,’ whose prayers had cited Christian bible more than 88 times. Attorneys: Pamela Koslyn, Andrew L. Seidel.


2014

Douglas Marshall v. City of Warren, Mich.

Michigan city forced to permit Marshall, an FFRF member, to install a ‘reason station’ in City Hall atrium to counter ‘prayer station.’ Attorneys: FFRF, Americans United and ACLU.


FFRF v. Koskinen

FFRF sues IRS for failing to enforce electioneering restrictions against churches. Settlement reached when IRS showed it had flagged churches involved with political intervention and filled position to oversee such investigations. FFRF can renew lawsuit if IRS reverts to previous inaction. Attorney: Richard L. Bolton.


Matthew Nielson, et. al. v. School District Five of Lexington, S.C.

South Carolina students sued over graduation prayer, district agreed to stop. Attorney: Aaron J. Kozloski, Patrick Elliott.


2015

FFRF, Dan Barker, Annie Laurie Gaylor, David Williamson v. Orange County (Fla.) School Board

Suit over censorship of freethought materials, while allowing unfettered distribution of Christian bible in Orange County schools, ends with district suspending bible distributions. Attorneys: Jerry H. Jeffery, Steven M. Brady, Andrew L. Seidel.


FFRF, Patrick Elliott v. Wisconsin Office of Commissioner of Insurance

FFRF sued over open records violations for withholding information related to decision not to enforce Wisconsin’s contraceptive mandate, which court ordered provided to it. Attorney: Christa Westerberg.


FFRF, Jane, John, Jesse & Jamie Doe v. Emanuel County School System

Suit stopped pre-lunchtime prayers inflicted on elementary students, reprisal against children not praying. Attorneys: W.R. Nichols, Samuel T. Grover and Andrew L. Seidel.


FFRF, Doe 4, Doe 5 v. Connellsville (Pa.) Area School District

Suit removes Ten Commandments monolith in front of district’s junior high school, which, judge rules, ‘runs afoul of the Establishment Clause.’ Attorney: Marcus B. Schneider, with help from Patrick Elliott.


2016

FFRF, Antelope Valley Freethinkers and David Dionne v. Antelope Valley (Calif.) Union High School District

Compels school district to publicize scholarships for atheist students, not just Christian students. Attorneys: David Kaloyanides, Andrew Seidel and Madeline Ziegler.


FFRF, Kevin Price and Jesse Castillo v. Brewster County, Texas

Suit promptly removes Christian cross decals from county patrol vehicles, despite governor’s vow to fight FFRF. Attorneys: Randall Kallinen, Sam Grover, Patrick Elliott.


FFRF, Steve Kristoff, Renana Gross v. Franklin County, Ind.

Two rounds: FFRF sued over prominent nativity display in front of courthouse. County turned area into public forum, with FFRF withdrawing challenge. When county censored FFRF display, FFRF went back to court; judge ordered that nonreligious displays be permitted, county closed forum altogether. Attorneys: ACLU Gavin M. Rose of ACLU of Indiana; Sam Grover and Rebecca Markert.


FFRF and Jerome H. Bloom v. City of Shelton, Conn.

City allowed American Legion angel display, but censored FFRF’s solstice display. In response to suit, city closed forum in Constitution Park, including angel display, permitted FFRF to place display in Huntingtown Park, where there was a Christian nativity. Attorneys: Elizabeth Cavell, Ryan Jayne, Laurence J. Cohen.


2017

FFRF, Marie Schaub, Doe 1, Doe 2, Doe 3 v. New Kensington-Arnold (Pa.) School District

Five-year epic battle removed 6-foot, 2-ton Ten Commandments monument from Valley High School, New Kensington, Pa. Attorney: Marcus B. Schneider, with help from Patrick Elliott.


FFRF, Andrew DeFaria v. City of Santa Clara, Calif.

Sued city after waiting four years for them to remove 14-foot cross from public park marking site of second Spanish Catholic mission. City removed cross. Attorneys: Rebecca Markert, Madeline Ziegler, David Kalyonides.


Additionally, FFRF has won Round I of eight pending cases, including:

Halting prayer by school board in Chino Valley, Calif; finding Brevard County (Fla.) discriminated by not allowing nontheistic invocation; ending a live nativity pageant in Elkhart, Ind., public schools; finding Texas Gov. Greg Abbott unlawfully censored FFRF’s Bill of Rights nativity display; finding the IRS clergy housing allowance privilege unconstitutional; finding a 30-foot cross in a Pensacola public park unconstitutional; finding a Latin cross on the county seal in Lehigh, Pa., unconstitutional; and ending biblical instruction in elementary schools in Mercer Co., W. Va.