Former Mississippi Corrections Officer Sentenced to Prison for Excessive Force

Shelley Griffith, 29, a former Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) officer, was sentenced today in Jackson, Mississippi, by Chief U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan II of the Southern District of Mississippi to serve 70 months in prison for her role in assaulting an inmate at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility (CMCF) in Rankin County, Mississippi.

Griffith pled guilty on Dec. 14, 2017, to violating the civil rights of an inmate by using excessive force against him.

“This type of behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated by the Department of Justice,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “The Civil Rights Division is committed to prosecuting those who violate the civil rights of others.”

“Violating a person’s civil rights, whether the person is incarcerated or not, is a serious offense and only damages the already delicate relationship between corrections officers and inmates,” said Special Agent in Charge Michelle A. Sutphin of the FBI’s Jackson Division. “The FBI will continue working with our partner agencies to investigate violations of civil rights within Mississippi prisons.”

According to the Criminal Information, on May 25, 2016, Griffith assaulted the inmate, identified as “L.H.,” by kicking, punching, and stomping on him. Griffith’s assault resulted in bodily injury to “L.H.” and involved the use of a dangerous weapon. At the time of the incident, Griffith was working as a corrections officer at CMCF in Rankin County, Mississippi.

Two other former MDOC officers, Reginald Brown and Sharalyn McClain, have pled guilty to violating the civil rights of “L.H.” based on their own conduct during the assault.  Brown was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 60 months. McClain will be sentenced on March 20, 2020. 

This case was investigated by the FBI’s Jackson, Mississippi, Field Office. Special Litigation Counsel Julia Gegenheimer and Trial Attorneys Cameron Bell and Mary J. Hahn of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Glenda Haynes of Southern District of Mississippi prosecuted the case.

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.  Learn more about the history of our agency at

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Author: January 17, 2020


Readout of U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr’s Visit to Mexico: January 15-17

Today, U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr concluded his second trip to Mexico City. The Attorney General participated in high-level meetings regarding joint counter-narcotic efforts as well as efforts to combat transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) and the trafficking of arms and drugs.

The Attorney General reiterated the United States’ commitment to protecting U.S. and Mexican citizens and leaders from both countries reaffirmed their commitment to bilateral law enforcement cooperation. 

To that end, leaders from both countries agreed to a joint meeting in February between key U.S. Attorneys’ offices and their Mexican counterparts. 

Together with U.S. Ambassador Christopher Landau, the Attorney General met with Mexico’s Attorney General Alejandro Gertz, Mexico’s Secretary of Foreign Relations, Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon, Secretary of Public Security and Citizen Protection, Alfonso Durazo Montaño, Defense Secretary General Luis Crescencio Sandoval, Navy Secretary Admiral José Rafael Ojeda Duran, and Security Undersecretrary Ricardo Mejía Berdeja.

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Author: January 17, 2020

Former Commander of Naval Station Guantanamo Bay Convicted of Obstructing Justice in Connection with Civilian Death

A former Commander of Naval Station Guantanamo Bay (GTMO) was convicted by a federal jury today of obstructing justice and making false statements, among other charges, in connection with the death of a civilian at the naval base.

John  Nettleton, 54, of Jacksonville, Florida, was convicted of obstructing justice, concealing information, falsifying records and making false statements, all related to his actions during the Navy’s investigation of the death of Christopher M. Tur, the Loss Prevention Safety Manager at GTMO’s Naval Exchange.  A sentencing date has not been scheduled.

“Captain Nettleton dishonored his oath and impeded the investigation into a civilian’s tragic death, preventing much needed closure for the family and friends of the deceased,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.  “Today’s verdict demonstrates the department’s steadfast commitment to holding accountable those who abuse their positions of public trust and obstruct justice.”

“By deliberately misleading NCIS during the investigation into the tragic death of Mr. Tur, Captain Nettleton delayed justice and wasted valuable Department of the Navy resources,” said Special Agent in Charge Matthew Lascell of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service’s (NCIS) Southeast Field Office. “NCIS is dedicated to holding those who unlawfully impede investigations accountable for their actions.”

Tur, 42, was found drowned in the waters of Guantanamo Bay on Jan. 11, 2015.  An autopsy revealed that Tur had suffered injuries prior to his drowning.  At the time of Tur’s death, Nettleton was the Commanding Officer of GTMO.  Nettleton was indicted in January 2019. 

According to the evidence at trial, Tur confronted Nettleton at a party at the GTMO Officers’ Club on Jan. 9, 2015, with allegations that Nettleton and Tur’s spouse had engaged in an extramarital affair.  Later that same evening, Tur went to Nettleton’s residence and a physical altercation ensued that left Tur injured.  Tur was reported missing on Jan. 10, 2015, by other residents of GTMO.  Nettleton also did not report that Tur had accused him of the extramarital affair, that Nettleton and Tur had engaged in a physical altercation at Nettleton’s residence, or that Tur had been injured.  Nettleton persisted in concealment and false statements as the search for Tur continued and then during the investigation into the circumstances of his death.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigated the case.  Deputy Chief Todd Gee and Trial Attorney Peter M. Nothstein of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section prosecuted the case.  Former Public Integrity Section Trial Attorney Mark Cipolletti also assisted in the investigation.

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.  Learn more about the history of our agency at

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Author: January 17, 2020

Owner of D.C. Area Tax Preparation Business Indicted for Tax Fraud

A federal grand jury in Washington, D.C. returned an indictment today charging an Indianapolis, Indiana, resident with conspiracy to file false claims, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, aiding and assisting the preparation of false tax returns, and tax evasion, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.

According to the indictment, Awett Tedla was the owner and operator of Speedy Tax Services LLC, a tax preparation business in Washington, D.C. and District Heights, Maryland. From 2012 through 2016, Tedla and her coconspirators allegedly obtained and used third party identities to file fraudulent tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) claiming tax refunds. The indictment also charges that from 2013 through 2016, Tedla falsified her own personal returns by omitting business receipts.

An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

If convicted, Tedla faces a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for each count of wire fraud, 10 years in prison for conspiring to file false claims for refunds, five years in prison for each count of tax evasion, and a mandatory sentence of two years in prison for aggravated identity theft. Tedla also faces a term of supervised release, restitution and monetary penalties.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Zuckerman thanked agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), who conducted the investigation, and Trial Attorneys Mark McDonald and Sean Green of the Tax Division, who are prosecuting the case.

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Author: January 16, 2020

Maryland Man Sentenced to Prison for Fraudulent Scheme to Solicit Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars in Contributions to Scam-Pacs

A Maryland political consultant was sentenced to three years in prison today followed by three years of supervised release for fraudulently soliciting hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions through several scam political action committees (PACs) that he founded and advertised as supporting candidates for office and other political causes. 

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger for the Eastern District of Virginia and Assistant Director in Charge Timothy R. Slater of the FBI’s Washington Field Office made the announcement.

Kelley Rogers, 56, of Annapolis, Maryland, previously pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud before U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady of the Eastern District of Virginia.  In addition to the prison sentence, Rogers was ordered to pay $491,299 in restitution and to forfeit at least $208,954 in proceeds obtained from his offense. 

According to admissions Rogers made in connection with his guilty plea, from August 2012 through 2018, in the Eastern District of Virginia and elsewhere, the defendant operated multiple PACs, including Conservative StrikeForce (CSF), Conservative Majority Fund and Tea Party Majority Fund.  In that role, the defendant engaged vendors to send e-mail solicitations and make telemarketing phone calls to prospective donors seeking political contributions to his PACs.  Rogers approved the text and other content of all solicitations, and determined how CSF spent the contributions individual donors gave in response to the solicitations.

During the course of his scheme, Rogers solicited contributions from the general public for his PACs based on materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises.  For example, in or around 2013, Rogers, working with an email vendor, represented through CSF that money contributed by donors would be used to support the campaigns of a candidate for governor and a candidate for attorney general of Virginia through, among other things, get-out-the-vote efforts and the hiring of attorneys to ensure the integrity of the elections.  In or around 2014, Rogers represented that donations to the PAC would be spent on assistance and support for military veterans.  In truth and in fact, the defendant never intended to spend, and never actually spent, any of the money raised by Rogers’s PACs on get-out-the-vote efforts or lawyers to protect the integrity of the 2013 Virginia and Attorney General elections, or on assistance and support for military veterans.  Instead, the defendant spent nearly all of the money raised from donors to benefit himself, his associates, and his PACs, including by pouring the majority of donor money into the solicitation of more donations.

In addition to the misrepresentations that Rogers made to donors, Rogers and others fraudulently billed his PACs for services that were not performed, thereby misappropriating donor money that had been contributed to the PACs by individuals across the country.  Rogers and his associates also made false statements to the Federal Election Commission about how they were spending PAC money. 

Finally, Rogers admitted that he and several others also participated in a scheme to use conduits (straw donors) to make contributions to a candidate running to represent a district in the United States House of Representatives that exceeded the limits placed on individual campaign contributions under federal law.

The FBI’s Washington Field Office is investigating the case.  Trial Attorneys Bill Gullotta and John Taddei of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section (PIN) and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Pedersen of the Eastern District of Virginia are prosecuting the case.  Former PIN attorney Molly Gaston provided significant assistance in the case. 

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.  Learn more about the history of our agency at  

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Author: January 17, 2020

Former Member of Barbados Parliament and Minister of Industry Found Guilty of Receiving and Laundering Bribes from Barbadian Insurance Company

A former member of the Barbados Parliament, who also served as the Minister of Industry of Barbados, was found guilty today by a federal jury for his role in a scheme to launder bribes paid to him by executives of the Insurance Corporation of Barbados Limited (ICBL). 

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue of the Eastern District of New York and Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office made the announcement.

Following a one-week trial and two hours of jury deliberations, Donville Inniss, 54, a U.S. legal permanent resident who resided in Tampa, Florida, and Barbados, was found guilty of two counts of money laundering and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.   Sentencing has not yet been scheduled.

According to the evidence presented at trial, in 2015 and 2016, Inniss took part in a scheme to launder into the United States approximately $36,000 in bribes that he received from high-level executives of ICBL.  At the time, Inniss was a member of the Parliament of Barbados and the Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce, and Small Business Development of Barbados.  The trial evidence demonstrated that, in exchange for the bribes, Inniss leveraged his position as the Minister of Industry to enable ICBL to obtain two insurance contracts from the Barbados government to insure over $100 million worth of government property.  To conceal the bribes, Inniss arranged to receive them through a U.S. bank account in the name of his friend’s dental company, which had an address in Elmont, New York.  The trial evidence further showed that Inniss used a personal email account to communicate with an executive from ICBL in connection with the bribe payments and the laundering of the money through the dental company in New York.

The FBI’s International Corruption Squad in New York City investigated the case.  In 2015, the FBI formed International Corruption Squads across the country to address national and international implications of foreign corruption.  Trial Attorney Gerald M. Moody Jr. of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Gopstein and Sylvia Shweder of the Eastern District of New York prosecuted the case.  The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs also provided assistance in this matter.  The Department appreciates the cooperation provided by its law enforcement colleagues in Barbados during this investigation.

The Fraud Section is responsible for investigating and prosecuting all FCPA matters. Additional information about the Justice Department’s FCPA enforcement efforts can be found at

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.  Learn more about the history of our agency at

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Author: January 16, 2020

Former Gwinnett County Deputy Arraigned on Excessive Force and Obstruction Charges

Former Gwinnett County Deputy Sheriff Aaron S. Masters, who was assigned to the Rapid Response Team (RRT) at the Gwinnett County Jail, has been arraigned after a federal grand jury indicted him of acting under color of law to deprive an inmate of her civil rights and of falsifying a report of the incident. The indictment follows an investigation of an allegation that Masters used excessive force against a female inmate in 2018 by repeatedly striking her in the head. The indictment was announced by Eric. Dreiband, Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division; Byung J. (BJay) Pak, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia; and Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta.

According to the indictment and other information presented in court, at the time of the alleged misconduct, Masters was employed as a deputy sheriff assigned to work on the Gwinnett County Sheriff Office’s RRT inside the Gwinnett County Jail. The RRT was a specialized unit that resolved high-risk incidents and provided general assistance in maintaining order in the jail. On Aug. 20, 2018, Masters, without legal justification, repeatedly struck an inmate in her face with his closed fist, injuring her. Following the assault, Masters wrote a report about the encounter in which he falsely claimed that the physical force was necessary to gain the inmate’s compliance.

Masters, 27, of Jefferson, Georgia, was indicted on Jan. 14, 2020.

The charge of deprivation of civil rights under color of law resulting in injury provides for a sentence of no greater than 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000. The charge of falsifying a police report provides for a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.

Members of the public are reminded that the indictment only contains charges. The defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

This case is being investigated by the FBI, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Alan Gray and Department of Justice Civil Rights Trial Attorney Tim Visser.

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.  Learn more about the history of our agency at

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Author: January 16, 2020

Washington, D.C. Resident Sentenced for Violating the Toxic Substances Control Act

A Washington, D.C. man was sentenced yesterday to 60 days’ incarceration, two years of supervised release, a $50,000 fine and 300 hours of community service for violating the Toxic Substances Control Act in the course of renovating a Washington, D.C., property without following lead-safe work practices and lead disclosure requirements.

Mohammad Sikder, 60, had previously pled guilty to these offenses on June 20, 2019, before the Honorable Amy Berman Jackson. Sikder’s solely held company, District Properties LLC, also pled guilty to making false statements, at Sikder’s direction, in 25 building permit applications to the District of Columbia Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA). These applications understated the age of the homes being renovated, with the intent to avoid regulatory scrutiny of inadequate lead-based paint safety measures at those properties. Judge Jackson sentenced District Properties LLC to a $150,000 fine and two years’ probation with special condition of funding 3 lead-paint awareness seminars for real estate developers and contractors.

“Skirting laws that govern the use of toxic substances puts the public’s health at risk, and doing so will get you investigated and prosecuted,” said Jeffrey Bossert Clark, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Lead-safe work practices and disclosure requirements provide essential protections from lead exposure, and this case shows that business owners and individuals who violate them will get jail time and pay a substantial penalty.”

“The defendant is being held accountable for providing false information on the permit application concerning the age of the building and using untrained workers to remove lead paint from the property,” said Jennifer Lynn, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in the District of Columbia. “Today’s sentencing sends a clear signal that EPA and its law enforcement partners are committed to enforcing environmental laws that protect the health and safety of our communities.”

In 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) launched the Trump Administration’s Federal Lead Action Plan to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposures and Associated Health Impacts. EPA and the Justice Department are working together to investigate and prosecute those who violate lead-safe work practices and lead disclosure requirements under TSCA.

Lead poisoning continues to be a major environmental health problem in the United States, although it is completely preventable. The most common source of childhood lead poisoning is lead-based paint in older homes, and the primary exposure pathway is ingestion of lead-contaminated dust. Lead is a toxic substance that can cause permanent damage, and is regulated under the Toxic Substances Control Act. Under the Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP Rule), contractors performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, childcare facilities, and schools built before 1978 must be certified and must follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination.

According to a statement of offense filed along with the plea agreements, Sikder and District Properties LLC purchased and renovated a property in Washington, D.C., without following the requirements of the RRP Rule. In 2014, the company submitted a building permit application to DCRA for addition, alteration, and repair of the property. At Sikder’s instruction, the employee submitting the permit application, under the section of the application titled “Lead Abatement,” falsely indicated that the property was built after 1978. During the summer and fall of 2014, a contractor conducted demolition at the property without following RRP Rule safe work practices. The demolition work included removing windows, removing interior and exterior painted surfaces, and removing floor and ceiling joists.

A Sept. 24, 2015, Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspection revealed multiple hazards, including employees performing manual demolition on a wall surface that had paint containing lead; the lack of an employee exposure assessment to determine actual employee exposure; the lack of lead training to employees; and proper sanitation practices not being followed. Sampling analysis showed lead present on the dump truck and employees’ hands. When the property was properly remediated and sold, Sikder and District Properties LLC did not provide the purchasers with this information and with a report documenting the prior existence of lead-based paint at the property.

Between 2011 and 2017, District Properties LLC submitted 25 renovation permit applications for properties in Washington, D.C., on which the company falsely represented that the properties had been built after 1978, thereby circumventing additional permitting requirements and avoiding EPA oversight with respect to RRP Rule compliance, which would be triggered by an accurate permit application.

The investigation was handled by the EPA-Criminal Investigations Division, in partnership with the Metropolitan Police Department Environmental Crimes Unit. Trial Attorney Cassandra J. Barnum of the Environmental Crimes Section is prosecuting the case.

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.  Learn more about the history of our agency at

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Author: January 16, 2020

Pennsylvania Anesthesiologist Sentenced to Prison for Tax Fraud

A Pennsylvania anesthesiologist was sentenced to 30 months in prison today for filing a false income tax return, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.

From 2010 through 2018, James G. Allen Jr., 54, filed and caused the filing with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of sixteen false tax returns for himself and his wife.  On these tax returns, Allen did not report more than $3 million in income that the pair earned as anesthesiologists.  In addition to filing false tax returns, Allen took steps to conceal the couple’s assets and income from the IRS, including depositing money in an offshore bank account held in the Bailiwick of Jersey, wiring money to Columbia to purchase a house, purchasing cryptocurrency and gold, and registering a vehicle in the name of a purported church. In total, Allen caused a tax loss of more than $900,000 to the United States.

In addition to the term of imprisonment, U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab ordered Allen to serve a one year term of supervised release and pay restitution to the IRS in the amount of $ 1,084,658.52.  

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Zuckerman thanked special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, who investigated the case, and Trial Attorneys Melissa S. Siskind and Carl F. Brooker, IV of the Tax Division, who are prosecuting the case.

Additional information about the Tax Division and its enforcement efforts may be found on the division’s website at

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Author: January 16, 2020

Department of Justice Announces Proposed Rule Regarding Equal Treatment of Faith-Based Organizations and Guidance on School Prayer

The Department of Justice announced a proposed rule today that would implement President Trump’s Executive Order No. 13831 (May 3, 2018), remove regulatory burdens on religious organizations, and ensure that religious and non-religious organizations are treated equally in DOJ-supported programs.  The proposed rule ensures that DOJ-supported social service programs are implemented in a manner consistent with the Constitution and other applicable federal law. 

The department also announced, in conjunction with the Department of Education, guidance on school prayer.  The updated guidance provides information on legal protections for prayer and other religious expression in public schools. 

“Since our nation’s founding, there has always been a strong consensus about the centrality of religious liberty in the United States and the freedom of religious expression,” said Attorney General William P. Barr.  “The Framers of the Constitution believed that both were indispensable to sustaining our free system of government.  The actions taken by the administration today will hopefully help secure religious freedom in our country for decades to come.”

Background on Equal Treatment of Faith-Based Organizations

Under current regulations that govern DOJ-supported programs, religious providers of social services — but not other providers of social services — must make referrals under certain circumstances and must post notices regarding this referral procedure.  These regulatory burdens had been required by then-President Obama’s Executive Order No. 13559 (Nov. 17, 2010).  Consistent with President Trump’s Executive Order No. 13831 (May 3, 2018), the DOJ’s proposed rule would eliminate them from DOJ regulations.  As the DOJ’s proposed rule observes, these burdens were not required by any applicable law, and because they were imposed only on religious social service providers, they are in tension with recent Supreme Court precedent regarding nondiscrimination against religious organizations.  The proposed rule also will foreclose other unequal treatment of religious organizations by ensuring that they are not required to provide assurances or notices that are not required of secular organizations. 

In addition, the proposed rule will clarify that religious organizations may apply for awards on the same basis as any other organization and that when DOJ selects award recipients, DOJ will not discriminate based on an organization’s religious character.  The proposed rule also clarifies that religious organizations participating in DOJ-supported programs retain their independence from the government and may continue to carry out their missions consistent with religious freedom protections in federal law, including the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment. 

The proposed rule incorporates the Attorney General’s 2017 Memorandum for All Executive Departments and Agencies, Federal Law Protections for Religious Liberty.  That memorandum was issued pursuant to President Trump’s Executive Order No. 13798 (May 4, 2017), and it guides all federal administrative agencies and executive departments in complying with federal law.

Background on School Prayer Guidance

Section 8524(a) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act and codified at 20 U.S.C. § 7904(a), requires the Secretary of Education to issue guidance to State educational agencies (SEAs), local educational agencies (LEAs), and the public on constitutionally protected prayer in public elementary and secondary schools.  It requires the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel to review the guidance prior to distribution to ensure that it represents the current state of the law.  In addition, section 8524(b) requires that, as a condition of receiving ESEA funds, an LEA must certify in writing to its SEA that it has no policy that prevents, or otherwise denies participation in, constitutionally protected prayer in public schools as detailed in this updated guidance.

The purpose of this updated guidance is to provide information on the current state of the law concerning religious expression in public schools.  Part I is an introduction.  Part II clarifies the extent to which prayer in public schools is legally protected.  LEAs and SEAs are responsible, under section 8524(b) of the ESEA, to certify their compliance with the standards set forth in Part II.

Part III of this updated guidance generally addresses principles of religious liberty that relate to religious expression more broadly, including prayer, in accordance with Executive Order 13798 (May 4, 2017), 82 Fed. Reg. 21675 (May 9, 2017), and the Attorney General’s Memorandum on Federal Law Protections for Religious Liberty of October 7, 2017, 82 Fed. Reg. 49668 (Oct. 26, 2017) (AG Memo).  It is meant to advise SEAs and LEAs on how to comply with governing constitutional and statutory law, but it is not a part of the required certification under section 8524(b) of the ESEA.  Part IV discusses the Equal Access Act, which provides statutory protection for religious expression in public schools.  These broader principles were drawn substantially from a 1995 presidential memorandum, Memorandum on Religious Expression in Public Schools, 2 Pub. Papers 1083 (July 12, 1995), and a 1998 Department of Education memorandum, Richard W. Riley, U.S. Secretary of Education, Religious Expression in Public Schools: A Statement of Principles (June 1998).

The Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice and the Office of General Counsel in the Department of Education have jointly approved this updated guidance as reflecting the current state of the law.  This updated guidance will be made available on the Department of Education’s website ( and the Department of Justice’s website (

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.  Learn more about the history of our agency at

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Author: January 16, 2020