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Atheist Group Stops Graduation Sermons at Public Charter School

For Immediate Release


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

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

(Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2014)—Today the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center received assurance from Hope Academy Charter School in the Morongo Unified School District in California that the school will cease to include spiritual components in its graduations.

“We are pleased that the public school has agreed to remove religious elements from its graduation ceremonies in accordance with the state and federal constitutions,” said Monica Miller, an attorney with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “By ensuring that its graduations are secular, the school will respect the rights of all students, especially those of minority faiths or no faith at all.”

The school is acting in response to a letter sent in June by the Appignani Humanist Legal Center on behalf of a concerned citizen, who reported the inclusion of a religious sermon in a public school graduation ceremony. Hope Academy Charter School invited a Christian clergy member to give the opening invocation at the ceremony, which included a five minute sermon referencing salt as a symbol in the Judeo-Christian faith tradition, the Last Supper and the words “God” and “prayer” as part of a final blessing. The school has assured attorneys at the legal center that its future graduations will no longer contain any religious or spiritual elements.

A copy of the letter sent to the school can be viewed here. The legal center has also sent a letter to the school board about the resolution of this matter, which can be viewed here.


Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., 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.