Oct 21, 2013

Why church-state lawsuits happen in the fall

The Freedom From Religion Foundation currently has 12 First Amendment lawsuits underway, each attempting to make American government more religiously neutral, more secular. According to P.J. Slinger at The Capitol Times in Wisconsin, "Fighting legal battles over the separation of church and state keeps the Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation busy. Very busy."

When is the busiest of the very busy times for those fighting for church-state separation? Fall.

It's the time when the leaves change, football starts, pumpkins ripen, and lawsuits are filed fighting over the place of religion in public life in America.

From Slinger's interview with FFRF co-founder and co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor:
Slinger: Are you currently cramped in your building now, or are you hiring more employees that you will need more space?
Gaylor: It’s both. We can’t expand any more. We’re just sitting in each others' laps. It’s our busiest time of the year in the fall. We just hired a fifth staff attorney to join at the end of the month. So he knows there won’t be a real office for him yet. The attorneys have offices in the library, reception room, so they really don’t have real offices. I have to share my office.  
Slinger: Why is fall your busiest season? 
Gaylor: State-church complaints. Because school's begun, we go from football prayer complaints then to the nativity scene complaints and Christmas-related violations, both in schools and every governmental office. 
The group plans to quadruple their square footage in 2014. FFRF has 13 permanent staff positions, and last year received 2,500 requests for help and sent 1,000 letters of complaint to government agencies. Gaylor says "There's going to be a lot more this year."

For comparison, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which defends religious practice against government restriction, has 31 current cases, including one where the FFRF is a named party. The Becket Fund has 13 lawyers and a staff of 27.