For Immediate Release
Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105, firstname.lastname@example.org
David Niose, 202-238-9088 ext. 119, email@example.com
(Washington, D.C., May 27, 2014)—Today the American Humanist Association submitted a letter to the Elmira City School District in New York, on behalf of an atheist student who objects to the Phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.
The anonymous student stated that, when she attempted to simply sit during the Pledge, her high school teacher instructed her to stand. She was also told by the teacher in front of her classmates that not standing for the Pledge “is disrespectful to America and to military personnel.”
“Forcing students to participate in the Pledge against their will is an infringement on their constitutional rights,” said American Humanist Association executive director, Roy Speckhardt. “By singling out students who do not wish to participate, the school is discriminating against children who are good without a god.”
“Federal courts have consistently upheld the right of students to sit out the Pledge of Allegiance as a matter of free speech and freedom of conscience,” said David Niose, legal director of the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “Since the Pledge exercise defines patriotism in terms of God-belief, it’s perfectly understandable that many good, patriotic atheist children and families would want to exercise their right to opt out.”
The American Humanist Association demands that teachers allow students to opt out of the daily Pledge exercise, cease to persuade students to participate, and not punish or reprimand students who choose to remain seated.
A copy of the letter can be found 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.