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Humanists File Suit over Weekly Prayers in Missouri High School Classroom

Administration Complicit in Supporting Religious Activities During School Hours

For Immediate Release

Contact:
Maggie Ardiente, mardiente@americanhumanist.org, 202-238-9088 x116
Monica Miller, mmiller@americanhumanist.org, 202-238-9088 x 120

(Washington, DC, Nov. 20, 2013) — The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center filed suit today in U. S. District Court against school officials in Fayette, MO, demanding an end to teacher-sponsored and school-promoted classroom prayer sessions at Fayette High School.

Activities outlined in the lawsuit include weekly Christian “devotional” prayer sessions led by a teacher in her classroom during school hours, students being told by the teacher that God will punish them if they are not good, exclusive morning announcements by the principal over the school public address system promoting the prayer sessions, the prominent display of the book “God’s Game Plan” in a classroom during class time, and using school-owned equipment and materials to print fliers for the prayer sessions.

“It is a clear violation of the Establishment Clause when public school officials encourage their students to pray or participate in prayer activities with them,” said Monica Miller of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “It is unfortunate that we have reached a point where court action is necessary to address a problem that the school could have resolved voluntarily on its own.”

The Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter, dated May 15, 2013, outlining the reasons why the school-sponsored and -promoted classroom prayers are unconstitutional. “Courts have … consistently ruled that the Establishment Clause prohibits teachers from leading, sponsoring, or participating in prayer with students, whether during school hours or not,” the letter points out. “Not only is leading students in prayer at school unconstitutional, so is ‘inviting or encouraging students to pray.’”

The complaint can be found online here.

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Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, DC, the American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other non-religious Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming philosophy of humanism, which—without beliefs in any gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

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