Rhode Island Affiliate, American Civil Liberties Union


Church and State Court Cases

For years, the Rhode Island ACLU has fought to maintain the separation of church and state. At the same time that the Affiliate has worked diligently to prevent government aid to religion, it has also been just as assiduous in protecting the free exercise of religion from government interference.

Rogers V. Mulholland. (2009-ongoing)

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of seven Pawtucket parents and their children, charging that the Parks and Recreation Division has, for a number of years, given preferential treatment to parochial schools over public schools in granting permits for the use of city athletics fields. The lawsuit seeks a court order declaring unconstitutional both the preferential treatment to religious schools and the City’s lack of any objective standards for granting permits for use of the fields. Cooperating Attorney: Sandra A. Lanni.
2009 News Release | 2011 News Release | Lawsuit

Ahlquist v. City of Cranston (2011-2012)

A federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a prayer mural addressed to “Our Heavenly Father” that is displayed in the auditorium of a Cranston public high school. The lawsuit, filed by RI ACLU volunteer attorneys Lynette Labinger and Thomas Bender, is on behalf of Jessica Ahlquist, a sophomore at Cranston High School West, who in the past year has spoken out against her school’s prayer display.
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Spratt v. Wall. (2006-2007)

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM. Appeal of a federal court ruling upholding a warden’s decision to bar an inmate from supervised preaching at religious services even though he had done so for seven years without incident. The appeal argues that the ban violates a federal law guaranteeing religious freedom to institutionalized persons. The appellate court reversed the lower court ruling, and the state subsequently adopted a new policy in accordance with the federal law, and also agreed to pay damages and attorneys’ fees. Cooperating Attorneys: Lynette Labinger, Carly Iafrate. Learn More

Osediacz v. City of Cranston. (2003-2005)

FREEDOM OF RELIGION. Federal lawsuit challenging both the display of a nativity scene and menorah on the front lawn of Cranston City Hall and city policies governing what displays may be erected. In 2004 the court upheld the display’s constitutionality but struck down the policies, but in 2005 an appellate court ruled the plaintiff didn’t have standing to challenge the policies. Cooperating Attorneys: Miriam Weizenbaum, Amato DeLuca.
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See also:
Highlights from Church and State court cases since the early 1970s.

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