AHA News |  

Mississippi High School Student Victorious in Lawsuit Challenging School’s Religious Assemblies

Judgment Includes Court Enforcement of Promise to Comply with the Constitution, Payment of Plaintiff’s Legal Fees

For Immediate Release

Contact:
Maggie Ardiente, mardiente@americanhumanist.org, 202-238-9088 x116
Monica Miller, mmiller@americanhumanist.org, 202-238-9088 x120

(Washington, DC, Nov 26, 2013) — A judgment has been entered by a federal court in a case brought by the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center on behalf of a student at a Rankin County, Mississippi high school challenging the proselytizing religious assemblies it staged for students earlier this year. The lawsuit was filed April 24, 2013 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi against administrators of Northwest Rankin High School in Flowood, MS and the county school district.

The judgment includes an admission of liability by the defendants that they violated the Establishment Clause, the provision of the Constitution that requires separation of church and state. It also requires the school district to comply with a new policy that prohibits future such violations and orders the defendants to pay the plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees.

“A lot has been accomplished and I’m pleased with the outcome of the suit,” said Magdalene “Gracie” Bedi, the student plaintiff in the case. “I'm grateful for the school's maturity throughout this ordeal and I look forward to graduating with them on a positive note. No one should have to question their rights in a public school and I think Northwest [Rankin High School] realizes this now.”

Before filing suit, a letter was sent asking school officials to stop the practice, where a student representative of the Pinelake Baptist Church spoke of finding “hope” in “Jesus Christ,” but the assemblies continued with school administrators insisting the assemblies were “student-led and organized.” According to students present, however, those who attempted to leave were prevented from doing so. At the end of the presentation, the speakers led the students in a Christian prayer. Videos captured by students can be found here and here.

A copy of the complaint filed in the suit can be found here.

“We are pleased that the school’s administrators have admitted that they violated the Constitution and agreed to continuing court oversight to prevent future violations,” said William Burgess, legal coordinator of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “There was clear evidence that these Christian assemblies were endorsed and organized by the school. To continue to deny a constitutional violation had taken place was untenable.”

Documents concerning the judgment can be found here and here.

###

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.

American Humanist Association

Have you ever worked in an overly religious workplace? Tell us about it.

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Happy Friday Everyone! From theHumanist.com Comics Section: Ideas Are Fair Gam...

2 days ago

American Humanist Association

It is almost Super Bowl Time! So, what team does God root for?

2 days ago

American Humanist Association

It's time to stop Saudi Arabia from continuing to carry out cruel punishment aga...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

The nation’s capital honors reason as personified by Charles Darwin on February...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

I like to finish out the day with a little humor, so I thought this was appropri...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

Today, on the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the house has voted to pass H.R.7...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

This week on the Humanist Hour Podcast, Marshall Brain talks about the logic of...

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

Opposing lawyers in our lawsuit challenging coach-led prayer at Chestatee High i...

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

"CONTROVERSIAL" billboard from Inland Empire CoR's television coverage from CBS!!

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

The AHA has become familiar with this particular issue over years; sports team p...

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

Did you see the new film SELMA? The United Coalition of Reason's Jason Heap, rev...

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

Here is a little re-cap of religious exemption in the United States.

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

What did you think of President Obama's State of the Union speech? #sotu #humanism

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

Would you consider the vandalism of a secular billboard to be a hate crime?

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

The Silverado-Modjeska Recreation and Park District’s board of directors will no...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Not only is it possible, it seems quite easy to raise a moral child without usin...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Remembering the dream. #MLKDay

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

A former Chestatee coach told the student players, "Jesus was a wrestler."

8 days ago

American Humanist Association

If you're in the Boston area on Sunday, AHA legal director David Niose will be a...

8 days ago

American Humanist Association

Awesome to see Bill Maher endorsing the Openly Secular campaign!

9 days ago

American Humanist Association

All eyes will be on you United States Supreme Court! Let's hope you make the rig...

9 days ago

American Humanist Association

Help us make this year's International Darwin Day the best one yet!

9 days ago

American Humanist Association

"Today, our Nation continues to be shaped by people of every religion and of no...

9 days ago