AHA News |  

Federal Appeal Filed to End Religious Elements in South Carolina Public School’s Graduation Ceremonies

American Humanist Association’s Legal Center Representing Local Family

For Immediate Release

Contact:

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

(Richmond, VA, Jan. 27, 2014) —The failure of a U.S. District Court judge to stop a South Carolina public elementary school from continuing to include substantial religious elements during graduation ceremonies is being challenged by the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center. Calling the denial of a preliminary injunction request by U.S. District Judge G. Ross Anderson Jr. “nothing more than the court expressing its personal dislike for the case,” AHA’s brief on appeal was filed today with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on behalf of the AHA and a local family.

Administrators of Mountain View Elementary School in Taylors, SC have refused a request to end prayers during future graduation ceremonies and insist on continuing to hold them in the Christian chapel at religiously affiliated North Greenville University, a school with a logo that includes the sectarian phrase “Christ Makes the Difference.” The 69-page appellate brief outlines the legal justifications for stopping the elementary school’s administrators from including planned or supported religious elements in future public school graduation ceremonies.

The appeal also asks that the request denied by Judge Anderson for the plaintiffs to remain anonymous “to protect their safety and privacy” be reversed.

“Previous federal court rulings have been clear that public school graduation ceremonies must be secular in nature to comply with the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” said Monica Miller, an attorney with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “There is no legal reason for the judge to have denied the motion to stop these practices pending the final outcome of the case.”

The appeal reveals many of the same facts contained in the verified complaint, including explicitly Christian prayers given by students during the 2013 graduation ceremony that were solicited and approved by school administrators, and the availability of alternative non-sectarian venues.

The plaintiffs’ brief can be found here. The complaint can be found here. The original letter sent to Superintendent W. Burke Royster and Principal Jennifer Gibson can be found 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.

13 hours ago

American Humanist Association

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

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

2 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

2 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

2 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

2 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

Remembering the dream. #MLKDay

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

Awesome to see Bill Maher endorsing the Openly Secular campaign!

8 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

8 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

8 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

8 days ago