Missouri school must no longer display favoritism toward Christian student group
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., June 12, 2014)—The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center has reached a settlement in its case against the Fayette R-III School District in Fayette, Missouri. The American Humanist Association filed suit against the school district in November after being contacted by a student about violations of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
The public school district showed unconstitutional favoritism toward Christianity in several ways. The school announced weekly prayer meetings over its intercom system and allowed a Christian student group to meet before the start of classes, unlike other clubs. The suit also alleged that the Christian club’s faculty sponsor prayed with students and displayed personal, religious materials in the classroom.
“Public schools must uphold the separation of church and state,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “To do otherwise is to disregard the rights of all students, including atheist and humanist children who are good without a god.”
“The school was violating the Establishment Clause in numerous ways – by promoting prayer meetings, giving privileges to the Christian club, and inappropriately allowing the teacher to participate in the club’s activities,” said David Niose, legal director of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “With this settlement, all of the problems are adequately addressed.”
In the consent decree agreed upon by the parties, the school is permanently enjoined from promoting prayer and religious activity, and religious clubs will be given no special privileges that other clubs do not enjoy. The school district also agreed to amend its announcement policies so that they will not identify any religious activities taking place at student group meetings. Also, faculty sponsors of student groups will not be permitted to participate in religious activities of the groups. School employees will also no longer be allowed to keep religious materials in places in open view.
“We are pleased that the school has chosen to move forward with policies that will respect the constitutional rights of all students,” Niose said.
A copy of the consent decree 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.