Mississippi's "No-No Square" Around the First Amendment

Though you wouldn’t know it from the state's recent activities, the Constitution does apply to Mississippi.

This week, we filed a lawsuit against Mississippi for promoting religious messages in a state-sponsored and state-funded abstinence-only-until-marriage event.  Each May, the Mississippi Department of Human Services hosts several abstinence-only events, including a big summit held at the Jackson Coliseum.  The summit includes various speakers and performers, and thousands of teens and community members attend.  For the past two years, the event has included significant religious proselytizing – a blatant violation of the Constitution’s protections that require the government to neither promote nor prohibit religious activities.  After learning that the May 2008 event featured religious content, we sent a letter to the state asking for its assurance that the May 2009 event would be secular.  Not only did we not get a response, but the constitutional violations at the May 2009 event were even more egregious.

For example, this year the event started with a religious invocation, referencing Jesus Christ and the Lord; it continued with a ten minute sermon by a county judge about the Ten Commandments and God; and it wrapped up with a mime ministry that performed to Christian gospel songs.  While all of these things would be fine at a private event, by individuals in their private capacity, the state cannot sponsor and fund these religious messages, nor can it express a preference for Christianity above all other religions.  You don’t have to take my word for it – the event was videotaped, and you can see part of it here.

Perhaps one of the most unique performances at this year’s summit was a cheerleading team – their cheer was selected by the state as the best abstinence-only cheer, and as a reward they were allowed to perform it at the summit.  The cheer included the quite catchy phrase, “Stop!  Don’t touch me there!  This is my no-no square!”

Perhaps Mississippi has decided to draw a “no-no square” around the First Amendment.  If so, our lawsuit will remind them that they are not above the Constitution.

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Willows 54

It is unbelievable that the money taken for this event from federal and state coffers is not refunded immediately. If any school or government office erred this egregiously, they would be fined and perhaps dismissed. It is time for the government to stand up for our rights and privileges guaranteed by the constitution.

SAMIAM

Wow, this is such a huge problem. Good thing we have worthless lawyers in the United States to sue them over this...

SAMIAM

Do you guys have anything better to do.

Mr. Nobody

I'm happy to see there are people using their first amendment rights.

(This comment wasn't sarcastic)

Anonymous

Hmm.. maybe Mississippi seceded without telling the rest of us? Their actions sure were blatant.

Carl

I can't believe you people condem others for speaking of Jesus Christ.
You people are nothing but Commies.
SICK... spreading this kind of crap needs to stop now.This is a free country
but the ACLU needs to be run right out of this country!!!

Brien

Mississippi ROCKS! God bless America, and you, and the ACLU... But you sure are killing America, freedom and free enterprise.
The ACLU ought to go back to RUSSIA where they came from. The CIA and the FBI needs to investigate your agency.
I'm thankful my God is so much bigger than the ACLU!!!

Brien

Now I see that my comment is "awaiting moderation". So you will allow what you want to. Thank God for Free Speech!

Brien

If you write the truth, the ACLU will NOT print it here! Thank you.

Dickbutt

To Carl: you can speak of Jesus Christ all you want, but not on the public's dime.

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