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Humanist Group Will Appeal Lawsuit Against Colorado School for Proselytizing Christianity

For Immediate Release


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

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

(Denver, CO, Feb. 16, 2016)—The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center will appeal the district court’s decision to dismiss its lawsuit against the Douglas County School District in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. The complaint was brought in 2014 on behalf of local families who objected to the school district’s persistent endorsement of Christianity.

The lawsuit stated that the district violated the First Amendment through its participation in the evangelical program Operation Christmas Child, run by the organization Samaritan’s Purse and headed by evangelical minister Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham. The district also took part in the Adventures in Missions™ and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes programs’ proselytizing mission trips to Guatemala, as well as mission trips to Belize. The United States District Court for the District of Colorado dismissed the lawsuit on Wednesday, January 20, and stated that the local families on whose behalf the lawsuit was filed do not have standing to bring the claims.

“As parents of students in the school district and as taxpayers, these families had their First Amendment right to religious neutrality violated,” said David Niose, legal director of the American Humanist Association. “We will continue to seek justice for them and to ensure that the public school district abides by the Establishment Clause in the future.”

“We’re shocked by the court’s disregard of non-Christian students and families,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “The school district blatantly and repeatedly misused taxpayer dollars to unconstitutionally promote religion in public schools.”

The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center will file an appeal to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals within two weeks. The lawsuit seeks to enjoin the school district from participating in these religious programs.

A copy of the lawsuit can be viewed here. The notice of appeal 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.