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Christian University's Chapel Used for Public School Graduation in South Carolina

American Humanist Association’s Legal Center Acts on Behalf of Parents, Calling for End to Sectarian Events

For Immediate Release

Contact: Brian Magee, bmagee@americanhumanist.org, 202-238-9088 x 105
William Burgess, bburgess@americanhumanist.org, 202-238-9088 x 102

(Washington, DC, June 11, 2013) — The American Humanist Association has sent a cease-and-desist letter to a South Carolina public elementary school that held its recent graduation ceremony in a chapel on the campus of a Christian university. The letter explained that this ceremony, which also included two prayers, is a violation of the separation of church and state.

After receiving a complaint from the parents of one of the school’s graduating 5th grade students, the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center yesterday sent a letter to the superintendent and principal of Mountain View Elementary School in Taylors, South Carolina, objecting to the unconstitutional nature of the ceremony. The letter warns of a possible lawsuit if the school continues to hold events of a sectarian nature or in a sectarian venue.

The graduation was held on May 30, 2013 at North Greenville University. The official schedule of events called for prayers on two separate occasions as part of the ceremony, which took place in a large Christian worship space, adorned with crosses, stained glass and other religious elements. The university’s logo includes the phrase “Christ Makes the Difference.”

“It has been made clear by the federal courts that events such as these violate the constitutional principle of separation of church and state,” said Monica Miller, an attorney and legal consultant with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “When a public school sponsors an event, it is the administration’s responsibility to ensure separation of church and state is maintained.”

The letter sent to Superintendent W. Burke Royster and Principal Jennifer Gibson can be found here.

The family who brought the complaint has decided for the time being to remain anonymous.

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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 the United States. Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.

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