By Jane Henegar, Executive Director, ACLU of Indiana

Jane HenegarOver the past year, a historic level of activism and protest has spilled out into our nation's parks, streets, and sidewalks — places where our First Amendment rights are at their height. And yet, in several states including Indiana, legislators have followed up on this exuberant activism with proposed bills that are not only far less inspiring, but also unnecessary and potentially unconstitutional.

Disappointingly, SB 285 is one such bill.

Even though these bills are cloaked with concerns about obstruction or public safety, their effect is singular: chilling protest and suppressing dissent. It is disappointing that our lawmakers would rather silence the voices of their constituents than listen and engage with them. It is unconstitutional and un-American and we at the ACLU are doing everything we can to stop it.

Editors: Please contact Christy Glesing at (317) 667-5991 for more information or to publish.

By Jane Henegar, Executive Director, ACLU of Indiana

Jane HenegarFebruary 22, 2017

The First Amendment and existing federal and state law protect religious speech and mandate certain accommodations for religious exercise in government institutions. What the First Amendment does not permit is government endorsement of, or preference for, religious speech and subject matter in public schools.

By forcing public schools to introduce religious curricula and open up public for a for religious speech, HB 1024 puts teachers and school administrators at risk of violating the First Amendment. In sum, HB 1024 takes away the autonomy of school districts to avoid policies and practices that make them susceptible to legal challenges under the United States Constitution.


By Jane Henegar, Executive Director, ACLU of Indiana

Jane Henegar webNo doubt, the distinctions between the First Amendment's protections for an individual's free exercise of religion and the First Amendment's prohibition against government's endorsement of religion can be confusing and complicated. However, each of the arguments that Mr. Heck [ACLU declares 'war' on the Constitution, 12/18/16] presents has been addressed and squarely rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Here is what past U.S. Supreme Court decisions say about the issues surrounding the town of Knightstown's decision to place a cross on top of a Christmas tree in the town square:

  • A Christmas tree has become a secular seasonal decoration. This conclusion by the Court is clearly shared by the millions of Americans and businesses who celebrate the holiday with a decorated tree in their living rooms or shop windows even though they may not celebrate the religious significance of the holiday.
  • Conversely, a Latin cross, such as the one that the town of Knightstown decided to place atop its tree, is the preeminent symbol of Christianity and not traditionally associated with Christmas.
  • When town government adds a Cross to its otherwise secularized decorations (trees, sleigh bells, and Santa Claus with his reindeer) it endorses Christianity over other religions.
  • The First Amendment prohibits all levels of government from endorsing religion. This Constitutional prohibition understandably covers actions of state and local governments, such as Knightstown, and not merely laws enacted by Congress.
  • Individuals have the right to freely exercise their religion, but the Establishment Clause of the Constitution makes clear that government does not have that same right.
  • A town government can open up the public square to allow individuals to express their individual religious beliefs if they allow all individuals, regardless of their faith, to do so. But, many cities, towns, or states have found the ensuing free exercise free-for-all to be unmanageable because Satanists, pagans, or other beliefs invariably seek to add their symbols to the public square.

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Nov. 17, 2016

Jane Henegar web      Jane Henegar
My View: By Jane Henegar, ACLU of Indiana Executive Director

The first president's 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation still speaks to America:

"We are thankful... for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge...."

—George Washington, 1789

The same year George Washington wrote these words, the Bill of Rights was introduced. Those first amendments to our Constitution are the bedrock for the individual liberties we all enjoy as Americans: your rights to religious liberty, free speech and assembly, a free press and privacy. These and other freedoms are essential to a functioning democracy.

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Oct. 31, 2016

Indianapolis — The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana today filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Bedford, Ind. resident who is challenging a newly enacted city ordinance regulating yard signs that has the effect of stifling his political expression. The lawsuit claims that the ordinance violates the First and the Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

 "The Ordinance's limitation of one general use sign on a resident's lawn is a particularly oppressive during election time when citizens wish to voice their support and opposition for multiple candidates and political issues." —Jan Menz, ACLU of Indiana staff attorney

The ACLU of Indiana filed the case against the City of Bedford on behalf of Samuel Shaw, who is seeking to stop the city from enforcing City Ordinance 15-2016, which was enacted in September.

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Oct. 25, 2016

Decision reverses trial court's order to dismiss, saying case managers have a right to bring an action to force DCS to comply with state law 

Indianapolis – Today the Court of Appeals of Indiana handed a victory to case managers at the Indiana Department of Child Services more than a year after they filed a class action lawsuit challenging the failure of DCS to adequately staff the agency as required by law.

In July, 2015, the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana brought the class-action lawsuit against DCS on behalf of case manager Mary Price and other case managers for violating Indiana Code § 31-25-2-5, which mandates the maximum number of caseloads case managers may have. Today's decision reverses the trial court's Feb., 2016 order to dismiss the lawsuit, saying that case managers have a right to bring an action under mandate to force DCS to comply with the statutory caseload maximums. The case has been remanded to the trial court.

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