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Humanist Group Stops Mississippi School from Sponsoring Prayer and Distributing Bibles

For Immediate Release


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

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

(Flowood, MS, July 13, 2015)—The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center applauds a United States District Court for its decision to grant a motion for contempt against Rankin County School District in Flowood, Mississippi, for violating the Establishment Clause.

“This order is a victory for all students, including those of minority religions and with no religion,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “Students’ rights must be respected, and they should not be made to feel like second-class citizens in their public schools.”

In May 2014, the American Humanist Association’s Appginani Humanist Legal Center filed a motion of contempt on behalf of a former student against the school district for violating a consent decree, which required the district to uphold the separation of church and state. Despite this ruling, the school district sponsored an award ceremony that included Christian prayers and sermons and subsequently promoted the distribution of Gideon Bibles to elementary students. The United States District Judge Carlton W. Reeves issued an order holding the school district in contempt and permanently enjoined the school district from “including prayer or religious sermons in any school-sponsored event.”

“The court’s order vindicates our client’s First Amendment freedoms and seeks to ensure that the school district will comply with the Constitution and cease its egregious practices of endorsing prayers, sermons and other religious activities in the future,” said Monica Miller, an attorney with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.

The American Humanist Association filed a lawsuit in April 2013 on behalf of a local high school student against the Rankin County School District for sponsoring student events that included religious proselytizing. In November 2014, the parties entered into a Consent Decree, which prohibited the district from violating the Establishment Clause. The court’s recent order makes clear that the school district must comply with Consent Decree lest it face serious sanctions.    

A copy of the order granting the motion for contempt can be viewed here, and a copy of the memorandum of law 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 nontheistic 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.