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Humanists Object to Christian Assembly at Public School

American Humanist Association says Northwest Rankin High School violated the separation of church and state

For Immediate Release

Contact: Sarah Anne Hughes, 202-238-9088 ex 112, sahughes@americanhumanist.org

(Washington, DC, April 16, 2013) —The American Humanist Association’s legal center strongly condemns an unconstitutional, mandatory and pervasively Christian assembly made by a Baptist church representative at Northwest Rankin High School in Flowood, Mississippi, and demands that such an assembly never be held again.

The Appignani Humanist Legal Center learned from students of Northwest Rankin High School that a mandatory assembly was held during school hours on April 9 where a representative of the Pinelake Baptist Church spoke of finding “hope” in “Jesus Christ.” The representative then showed a video focused on two formerly “troubled” young men who turned to Jesus Christ to solve their problems with drugs, sex, cutting, suicide and similar issues.

Students who attempted to leave were harassed by a principal and told to sit down, according to students present. At the end of the presentation, the representative led students in Christian prayer.

“The Northwest Rankin High School administration clearly violated the First Amendment,” said William Burgess, coordinator of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “We have a duty to protect students of all faiths—or none—from unnecessary religious intrusion in our public schools.”

The letter states, “The event promoted by this school was conducted during class-time and was mandated by the principal. It has hard to imagine a more blatant violation of the Establishment Clause than the one complained of herein.”

Attorneys for the Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter to the school on April 12 and are awaiting a reply.

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The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 160 local chapters and affiliates across America. Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation and The Herb Block Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.