AHA News |  

Humanist Group Files Motion of Contempt Against Public School for Prayer

For Immediate Release

Contact:

Merrill Miller, merrillmiller@americanhumanist.org, 202-238-9088 ext. 105

Monica Miller, mmiller@americanhumanist.org, 202-238-9088 ext. 120

(Washington, DC, May 7, 2014)—The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center has filed a motion of contempt against the Rankin County School District in Mississippi and its administrators for including a prayer in a school ceremony. This school-sponsored prayer violates a federal judge’s ruling requiring the school district to comply with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

In April, the school district hosted an awards ceremony for students that included a formal prayer delivered by a Christian pastor. The prayer was Christian in nature and made a specific reference to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Students were asked to stand and then bow their heads for the prayer. Students were also told to wear “church attire” to the event, which was held days before Easter Sunday. The American Humanist Association contends that the public school district’s actions unconstitutionally endorsed religion and coerced students into participating in a religious observance.

“Public schools are not in the business of prayer. Specifically making time for prayer in assemblies and award ceremonies threatens our nation’s constitutional principles and disregards the rights of our children,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association.

“Precedent set by both the U.S. Supreme Court and numerous federal courts clearly affirms that prayer in public schools violates the constitutional requirement of separation of church and state and infringes upon the religious liberty of non-adherents,” said Monica Miller, an attorney with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “It’s shocking that the school would so blatantly violate the Establishment Clause and the rights of its students.”

In April 2013, the American Humanist Association filed a lawsuit on behalf of local high school students against the Rankin County School District for sponsoring mandatory student events that contained religious proselytizing. In November, a federal court ruled that the school’s actions violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.    

The memorandum of law can be viewed 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

We're happy to welcome a new chapter, Montgomery Humanists, to the American Huma...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

This week on the Humanist Hour Podcast, Bo Bennett and Kim Ellington speak with...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

As we have seen by the recent murders of three nonreligious bloggers—Ananta Bijo...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

Jennifer Bardi, editor-in-chief of the Humanist magazine, recaps the AHA's 74th...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

Prospective Student Webinar this Thursday! Considering the next class of The Hum...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

Help the Louisville Atheists and Freethinkers represent humanists at this year's...

8 days ago

American Humanist Association

Humanist Pioneer Awardee Isaiah Smith, stands up for separation of church and st...

8 days ago

American Humanist Association

A South Carolina court has ruled that prayer in public school graduations doesn'...

8 days ago

American Humanist Association

Right-wing media loves terrorism stories, so how did they all manage to miss thi...

8 days ago

American Humanist Association

Omaha Metro Area Humanist Association, a chapter of AHA, is participating in Oma...

8 days ago

American Humanist Association

This week on the Humanist, Becky Garrison sits down with Quiet Company's Taylor...

9 days ago

American Humanist Association

Don't miss the Humanist "Ask Me Anything" session with Kristin Wintermute, Execu...

9 days ago

American Humanist Association

We love to see our fellow free-thinkers doing what they can to help out humanity...

9 days ago

American Humanist Association

With the number of Christians declining and the unaffiliated rising in the US, w...

9 days ago

American Humanist Association

Ethical Dilemma: How much would you change for your significant other's beliefs?

11 days ago

American Humanist Association

Happy Friday Everyone!

12 days ago

American Humanist Association

We're happy to welcome a new chapter, Palm Beach Humanists, to the American Huma...

12 days ago

American Humanist Association

Bob Diven, AHA celebrant in New Mexico, recently participated in a debate about...

12 days ago

American Humanist Association

Washington DC does something right, and we aren't talking about the feds!

13 days ago

American Humanist Association

On May 13, the AHA joined other members of the National Coalition for Public Edu...

13 days ago

American Humanist Association

Ethical Dilemma: What to do about a rude house guest. Tell us your experience w...

13 days ago

American Humanist Association

Don't miss the Humanist Institute's upcoming "Ask Me Anything" session with Kris...

14 days ago

American Humanist Association

On this week's episode of the Humanist Hour Podcast, Bo Bennett interviews singe...

14 days ago

American Humanist Association

A very happy 127th birthday to Inge Lehmann, the Danish seismologist and geophys...

14 days ago

American Humanist Association

Do community events like "Draw Mohammad" contests promote freedom of speech or j...

14 days ago