Religious Freedom Issues The ACLU of Rhode Island is Involved With - Court Cases, Legislation, News Releases


Protecting Civil Liberties in Rhode Island for Over 50 Years


Religious Freedom

Over the years, the ACLU of Rhode Island has been in the forefront of protecting the separation of church and state in the land of Roger Williams. At the same time that the Affiliate has worked diligently to prevent government aid to religion, it has been just as assiduous in protecting the free exercise of religion from government interference.  Through litigation, public education, and advocacy, the ACLU works to make sure that the government does not favor religion over non-religion, favor one religion over another, or curtail an individual’s right to freely and openly practice his or her religion.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." – United States Constitution

Religious Freedom in the News

  • Jun, 13, 2017: ACLU of RI Statement on ICE Agent Arrest of Immigrant at Providence Courthouse
  • Dec, 16, 2012: ACLU Lawsuit Challenging Pawtucket’s Favorable Treatment of Parochial Schools Goes to Trial
  • May, 04, 2012: Court Upholds Pawtucket’s Allocation of School Fields Against Constitutional Challenge

View All Religious Freedom Related News Releases »

Religious Freedom Related Court Cases

2010: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society v. Segardia de Jesus
Category: Free Speech    Religious Freedom    

The Affiliate joined in a “friend of the court” brief, filed with the National ACLU and other New England affiliates, in support of a challenge by Jehovah’s Witnesses to a Puerto Rico law that gave certain neighborhoods the right to close themselves off from political and religious canvassers.

2010: Ahlquist v. City of Cranston
Category: Church and State    

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

Cooperating Attorneys: Lynette Labinger and Thomas Bender

Supporting Documents

Religious Freedom Related Legislation

Internet “Porn Tax” (S 2584)
Category: 2018    First Amendment Rights    

This much talked-about bill (S-2584) would “require Internet service providers to provide digital blocking of sexual content and patently offensive material . . . and allow consumers to deactivate digital block upon payment of a twenty dollar ($20.00) fee.”  In a commentary we have prepared on the bill, we note that the legislation is clearly unconstitutional. Its requirements that ISPs censor a wide variety of protected speech and that consumers pay a fee in order to  access First Amendment-protected material run afoul of numerous court decisions that protect free speech on the Internet and bar content-based taxes on speech. Reports that the ACLU of Rhode Island has issued over the years -- which you can find here, here and here -- have documented just how poorly Internet filtering devices work, all to the detriment of the public, to academic freedom, and to the promotion of access to knowledge that the Internet is designed to facilitate. Read more on our blog

Net Neutrality (S 2008, H 7422)
Category: 2018    First Amendment Rights    

It is nearly impossible to get through life without using the Internet, which is why it’s essential that our free speech rights be protected both on- and offline. Sponsored by Sen. Louis DiPalma and Rep. Aaron Regunberg, this legislation (S-2008, H-7422)would prohibit state-purchased or funded Internet service providers  (ISPs) from halting, slowing, or otherwise tampering with the transfer of data, thus ensuring fair and equal access to all Internet content. Its enactment has become critical because last year the FCC repealed federal provisions requiring ISPs to abide by “net neutrality” principles that required Internet access to  be open and non-discriminatory in operation.