The ACLU and Religion: Don't Believe Everything You Read On the Internet

A malicious and factually inaccurate e-mail accusing the ACLU of not standing solidly on the side of religious liberty – an e-mail that was first circulated six years ago – has once again reared its ugly head and popped up in the e-mail inboxes of people across the country. In an effort to set the record straight, below are two myths the e-mail passes off as truth, followed by the facts which effectively debunk the e-mail’s claims.

MYTH: The ACLU has filed a lawsuit to have all cross-shaped headstones removed from federal cemeteries.

FACT: The ACLU has never once advocated for or initiated any litigation in favor of removing cross-shaped headstones from federal cemeteries. In fact, as the website makes clear, there are no cross-shaped headstones at VA national cemeteries. The headstones and markers the government issues are rectangular.

What the ACLU did do in 2006 was file a lawsuit seeking to protect the right of veterans and their families to choose religious symbols to engrave on headstones in federal cemeteries. The result of this litigation was not the forced removal of any crosses, but rather an expansion of the official government list of religious symbols allowed on headstones by the National Cemeteries Administration of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to include the Wiccan pentacle.

There are military cemeteries with rows of crosses in them, but most of those are in Europe, the final resting place of some American troops killed during World War I and World War II. Those cemeteries are maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission and, according to, are technically owned by the foreign country in which they are located but sit on land given to the U.S. for use in perpetuity as commemorative cemeteries. further reports that commission officials are not aware of any effort – by the ACLU or anyone else – to remove cross-shaped headstones from those sites.

MYTH: The ACLU filed a lawsuit to end prayer in the military completely.

FACT: The ACLU has filed no such lawsuit. This totally false assertion is likely misrepresenting a letter the ACLU and the ACLU of Maryland sent in June 2008 to officials at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis asking them to stop forcing midshipmen to participate in the Academy’s compulsory "noon meal prayers." A New York Times article very effectively details why forcing midshipmen to stand in attendance at the daily "noon meal prayer" is a violation of their religious freedom and rights of conscience.

In the letter sent to the Academy, ACLU of Maryland Legal Director Deborah A. Jeon makes clear that the ACLU opposes compulsory religious services mandated by the government, not voluntary religious exercises by Academy midshipmen. As Jeon writes: "[T]his request is not motivated by any hostility to voluntary religious exercises by Academy midshipmen, nor do we fail to recognize the important place religious faith holds among many in the military. Indeed, the ACLU has long defended the fundamental right of religious communities, families and individuals – including those in the armed services – to practice their faith freely and openly." Let there be no question that the ACLU vigorously defends the right of all Americans to practice religion (PDF).

We at the ACLU sincerely hope that providing you with this factual information regarding the erroneous claims made in the e-mail will not only help you avoid bearing false witness, but, should you desire, also empower you to set the record straight should it find its way to you.

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Patricia Zaffuto

I believe there is so much you could do, but you seem to concentrate so much on religious and sexual discremenation that I believe you are not as effective as you should be. Many more problems are happening out there. After I read your first few pages, it gives me the impression that all your attentions are focused on the above matters. Move on. Whether they say a noon blessing at the Naval acedemy is just a distraction from what your organization should be reviewing. My mother lived in a retirement home (Christian City) for ten years which received government assitance for the residence. They did a great job. They never tried to force their religion on my mother who was Catholic. They probably had prayer from time to time at events. So what. Just as I have always told anyone going to my church on a visit--you can just sit and watch --no problem. I was going to ask you a question regarding property rights and the government. Are you interested or do you just take care of relgion and sex. You need to change your focus.

The ACLU and Gu...

FACT: The ACLU DOES NOT support our basic constitutional right to keep and bear arms!
The ACLU will claim to support the Bill Of Rights yet they completely ignore the importance of our Second Amendment.
The Bill Of Rights is NOT multiple choice!

Jan Karon

It's so difficult for Christians to understand how important separation of church (not synagogue, right?) and state is to the rest of us...Have you seen the email with subject, "Nominee for the best email of the year? It's edited by me here, with my response below:

After being interviewed by the school administration, the prospective teacher said:
'Let me see if I've got this right.
'You want me to go into that room with all those kids, correct their disruptive behavior, observe them for signs of abuse, monitor their dress habits...
'You want me to check their backpacks for weapons, wage war on drugs...
'You want me to teach them patriotism and good citizenship, sportsmanship and fair play...
'You want me to check their heads for lice, recognize signs of antisocial behavior...
'You also want me to provide them with an equal education regardless of their handicaps...
'You want me to do all this with... a starting salary that qualifies me for food stamps.
'You want me to do all this and then you tell me. . . I CAN'T PRAY?

I clicked reply all to 40 people, many of whom I didn't even know and said:

Dear teacher,

Pray! Pray to your hearts content. Pray in the morning! Pray at noon. Pray in the evening. Pray while you interact with a difficult student. Pray on, woman, pray on.


I'm a student in your class, and we don't "pray" like you do, nor do I choose to listen to your prayers. Nor am I here for praying.

Pray on! woman, pray on. No one stops you.

Prayer is a matter of the heart. Share it in a place of prayer, not in a public school.

The world needs you to pray - please pray on.


The only rights that the right wingers
want people to have are gun and the chance to shove their warped version of Christianity down everyone's throats.

The ACLU and th...

The ACLU supports the Constitution of the United States of America, which makes no mention of an individual's "right" to keep and bear arms.

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that the Constitution's provision for State militia force does not conflict with the individual's keeping and bearing arms.


Remember, it was ACLU founder Roger Baldwin who was quoted as saying ".....communism is the goal." Can someone on the far- left please name a communist nation where freedom of religion without government involvment florishes? Are there any Christian conservatives sitting on the board of the ACLU, or are they all marxist in their thinking? The Alliance Defense Fund is the true gardian of religious freedom in this nation. It's founder hated communism and all it stood for.


The Alliance Defense Fund is the true guardian of freedom to be a proselytizing Christian in this nation. And they do not consider all Christian sects to be Christian.

Walk a mile in a Muslim's shoes.

Brenda Hillyer

Be very ashamed. Those of you leading the "fight" to cover crosses is true, not propaganda! You have lost touch with reality and apparently have more time (and greed) than you know what to do with. Let one of your family members begin to suffer and see how quick you fall to your knees in prayer!! I bet you already have! Those lawyers and the Park Officials suing should return to elementary school to study history and the basis on which these great United States of (not in) America was founded! Do something productive and leave us true Americans alone! If you don't like it feel free to pack your bags and leave the U.S.A. we don't want any of you here anyway! Signed:a true blooded Cherokee Indian


is it true that military pastors are forbidon to say the name Jesus Christ in their services and while speaking with soldiers?


God loves you :)


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