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Public School Promptly Addresses Establishment Clause Violation in Morning Announcements

For Immediate Release

Contact:

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

(Washington, D.C., Feb. 9, 2015)—The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center expresses appreciation for a prompt response from officials at Nassau County School District in regards to a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

This morning, the Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter to officials at the public school district and Yulee High School in Yulee, Florida, on behalf of two students. The students, who both identify as atheists, reported that for the past several weeks, the school’s morning announcements, issued over the school’s PA system and scripted by school officials, closed with the words, “God bless America.” The letter asserts that this endorsement of religion by a public school violates the Establishment Clause, as it privileges religion over nonreligion. Such government promotion of theism also defines God-belief as patriotic and relegates atheist, humanist and other nontheist students to second-class citizenship.

This afternoon, the Appignani Humanist Legal Center received written assurances from the principal that the theistic assertion was not part of the scripted announcements but was added by a student without the school’s approval. In response to the letter, the administration promptly warned the student not to make such non-approved announcements in the future. The principal reassured the legal center, “It is our desire and intention to respect the belief and constitutional freedoms of all our students at Yulee High School.”

A copy of the letter sent to the school by the Appignani Humanist Legal Center can be viewed here.

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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.