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Legal Features

The Rutherford Institute's 2011 Case Summary Report

The following is a sampling of Rutherford Institute (TRI) cases
which have made their way through the courts this past year.


American Freedom Alliance v. California Science Center, et al (CA): Museum officials agreed to settle case in which a Christian group was barred from presenting a film that questions evolution and discusses intelligent design in a government-owned IMAX theater.

Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn (AZ): The Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision striking down Arizona’s tax credit for contributions to organizations providing private school tuition assistance.

Cox v. Commonwealth (VA): Affirming free speech, judge dismissed case against Iraq war veteran charged with disorderly conduct after he used a bullhorn to call out to a police officer conducting a traffic stop, “Stop harassing people—we pay your paychecks.”

Faw v. Kings Mountain National Military Park (SC): After TRI intervened, park officials apologized for ordering a visitor to leave the park because of a decal on his car promoting Ron Paul.

John Doe v. Portage Township Schools (IN): School officials agreed to cease their practice of having students complete mental health and suicide surveys without their parents’ written consent.

Karns v. City of Williamsburg (VA): TRI successfully defended a Christian street preacher who was charged with violating Williamsburg’s noise ordinance for preaching with a small amplifier on a public street.

Layshock v. The Hermitage School Dist. (PA): Federal appeals court affirms student right to privacy on social networking website.

Mabe v. VA Dept. of Corrections (VA):  In response to a TRI lawsuit, the Virginia Department of Corrections agreed to allow prisoners access to Christian sermons on CD.

Mann v. Prairie Ridge High School (IL): School officials agreed to stop instructing students in Buddhist-based chants and meditation exercises during class time.

Marcavage v. City of Winchester (VA): City officials agreed to amend noise ordinance after a group of Christian street preachers were prevented from witnessing at a public street fair.

Rothamel v. Fluvanna County (VA):  In a legal victory brought about by TRI, a federal court ruled that Fluvanna County's seal ordinance chills expression in violation of the First Amendment.

Snyder v. Phelps (US): In a case that affirms the First Amendment’s protections for free speech, the Court voted 8-1 to “protect the equality of ideas in the public square,” even when those ideas may be disagreeable to society at large.

Tessitore v. Fitchburg School Distr. (MA): School district agrees not to subject students to intrusive surveys without written parental consent.

Walters v. Commonwealth (VA): An environmental activist was found not guilty of trespassing after he refused to leave the shoulder of a public highway while protesting a public utility's involvement in mountaintop removal mining.

United States Supreme Court

Alford, et al. v. Greene (OR): TRI challenged the authority of police officials to seize and interrogate students in public schools without their parents’ knowledge or consent.

Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. E.E.O.C.: Citing concern for religious freedom, TRI urged Supreme Court to defer to church’s discretion in employment decisions.

Joyner, et al. v. Forsyth County, (NC): TRI challenged an ACLU lawsuit against the County Board of Commissions to stop their practice of opening meetings with prayer.

United States v. Jones: TRI challenged the warrantless use of GPS devices by police to track the movements of individuals.

Workman v. Mingo County Board of Education (WV): TRI defended a mother’s right to claim a religious exemption for her child from a state vaccination law.

Pre-Litigation Cases

Bartlett v. Washington Irving Elementary (IL): A public school teacher was charged with possessing a weapon after he displayed such garden-variety tools as wrenches, pliers and screwdrivers in his classroom as part of his second grade teaching curriculum that required a “tool discussion.”

Clark v. Northwest Intermediate School (PA): An elementary school student was prohibited by school officials from passing out Christian pamphlets to her classmates during non-instructional time.

Clark v. Tallwood Elementary (VA): A 6-year-old was given an out-of-school suspension for allegedly crying at school and disrupting the educational process.

Celletti v. Rock Valley College (IL): A college student was prevented by officials from posting flyers on campus meant to raise awareness about the Constitution, allegedly because he was not a member of any campus club.

Kurre v. Fluvanna County (VA): A small business-owner was told to remove decorative flags on her property as they violate the county sign ordinance.

Litigation Cases

Blair v. City of Humboldt (IA): City officials ordered a couple to remove a sign with a quote by Thomas Jefferson about the danger of government from their yard.

Burlison v. Springfield Public Schools (MO): Students at a public high school were subjected to mass searches and random lockdowns by school officials and law enforcement.

Chase v. Ocean City (MD): In violation of the First Amendment, a visual artist and street performer was prohibited from creating and selling his paintings on the boardwalk.

Dariano, et al. v. Morgan Hill Unif. Sch. Dist. (CA): Students at Live Oak High School were sent home from school for wearing patriotic flag t-shirts to class.

Dreibelbis v. John Does (PA): A business owner was threatened with arrest simply for videotaping his own business activities and videotaping his subsequent interaction with the police while on a public sidewalk.

Durso v. Napolitano, Roberts v. Napolitano: Airline pilots and passengers refused to submit to virtual strip searches by government agents, or submit to highly invasive pat-down searches.

Etz Chaim v. Teaneck Zoning Board (NJ): a Jewish congregation was restricted in its ability to assemble for prayer and worship meetings by a New Jersey zoning board.

Freshwater v. Mount Vernon City School (OH): A Christian teacher was fired for keeping religious articles in his classroom and for using teaching methods that encourage public school students to think critically about the school's science curriculum, particularly as it relates to evolution theories.

Kaye Beach v. Oklahoma Department of Public Safety (OK): An Oklahoma woman was denied accommodation of her sincerely held religious objection to having a high-resolution biometric photograph used on her driver’s license.

Mikel v. School Board of the County of Spotsylvania (VA): School officials suspended a 4-year-old honor student for shooting "spitwads" at school and charged him with criminal conduct.

Moultrie v. Berkeley County, S.C. (SC): A South Carolina man was ordered to remove signs bearing New Testament verses from his front yard.

Open Gate Western Heritage Church v. Calcasieu Parish School Board (LA): A church was told that it could no longer use the elementary school cafeteria it had been renting because its services constituted “worship.”

Oracle Institute et al. v. Bd. of Supervisors of Grayson County (VA): Local officials denied a permit to develop a spiritual retreat center on privately-owned land, violating religious liberty.

Renna v. County of Union, New Jersey (NJ): Government officials attempted to censor a local TV producer who had been calling for greater transparency in government.

Tobey v. Napolitano (VA): A college student was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct after protesting airport scanners by exposing a portion of the Fourth Amendment written on his chest.

Webber v. First Student Inc. (OR): An elementary school bus driver was fired for displaying a Confederate flag on his personal vehicle while it was parked in the company parking lot.

Weinstein v. Ammerman, et al. (TX): Military chaplains were sued for offering imprecatory prayers asking God to protect the weak and faithful from the strong and wicked.