AHA News |  

Colorado School District Promotes Christianity, Humanist Group Files Lawsuit

For Immediate Release


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

David Niose, 202-238-9088 ext. 119, dniose@americanhumanist.org

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

(Washington, D.C., Oct. 22, 2014)—Today the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center filed a lawsuit against the Douglas County School District in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, for multiple violations of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The lawsuit challenges the public school district’s repeated practice of promoting and supporting programs that proselytize Christianity. Among the violations, the school district actively promoted and engaged in a program run by the evangelical Christian organization Samaritan’s Purse. Called Operation Christmas Child, the program uses gift packages with Christian messages to persuade children in developing nations to convert to Christianity. Samaritan’s Purse is led by evangelical minister Franklin Graham.

In addition to helping Graham’s evangelical operation, several schools in the district have also partnered with Adventures in Missions™, a Christian organization, and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) to promote an evangelizing trip to Guatemala, attended by two high school teachers and advertised using school resources. School district officials also participate in and promote Christian mission trips to Belize, and officials are encouraged to attend blessings and worship services at a local Christian church to prepare for the trips.

“This public school district seems to be on a mission to promote Christianity, using taxpayer dollars for evangelical and missionary purposes,” said David Niose, legal director of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “As state entities, public schools must educate students in a neutral environment, not push one particular religious belief.”

“By pressuring public school children into participating in programs that proselytize Christianity, the school district is marginalizing religious minorities and students with no religion at all,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association.

The Appignani Humanist Legal Center had previously sent letters to the school district concerning most of these matters but received no official response. The lawsuit seeks to enjoin the school district from continuing to support these evangelical Christian efforts and seeks a declaration from the court that such practices are unconstitutional..

Details of the lawsuit 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.