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Humanist Group Sues Georgia School District for Promoting Religion

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., Dec. 2, 2014)—The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center has filed a complaint against Hall County School District  in Gainesville, Georgia, for promoting prayer and Christianity through its athletics programs.

“We have received numerous complaints from parents, students and taxpayers within the district who feel that their right to the separation of church and state has been violated by this public school district’s pervasive and longstanding practice of promoting Christianity,” said David Niose, legal director of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.

The lawsuit is being brought on behalf of local citizens, including the mother of a child in the school system. Coaches at Chestatee High School have regularly led student football players in prayer, as well as participated in prayer with students. These activities have been ongoing for at least the past five years. Official team documents, workout sheets and pregame banners have also prominently featured Bible verses. A wrestling coach and a baseball coach at Chestatee High School have also engaged in prayer with students, and a former wrestling coach included references to Jesus and Christian scripture in his motivational speeches to the team. The band director of Chestatee High School has also prayed with students, and the marching band elects a student “chaplain” to lead the students in prayer. Coaches in other football programs in the district have also led and participated in prayers with students.

“By endorsing Christianity in its sports programs, the school district is demonstrating its disregard for students of minority faiths or students of no faith at all,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “Public school districts must create secular environments that are welcoming to all students.”

In August, the Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter on behalf of a concerned citizen to Hall County School officials informing them of these violations of the Establishment Clause. After failing to receive an adequate response, the Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a second letter. However, the school district has continued its policy and practice of promoting religion.

The lawsuit seeks a declaratory judgment that the school district’s actions violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, as well as a permanent injunction prohibiting the school district from engaging in these or similar activities in the future.

A copy of the complaint 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.