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 20, 2014)—The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter to Hope Academy Charter School and the Morongo Unified School District in California on behalf of a concerned citizen who objected to the school’s inclusion of a religious sermon during a graduation ceremony.
At Hope Academy’s graduation ceremony in May, a Christian clergy member was invited to give an opening invocation. His remarks consisted of a five minute sermon that referred to salt as a symbol in the Judeo-Christian faith tradition, discussed the Last Supper and made use of the words “God” and “prayer” as part of a final blessing. The letter asserts that these actions violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the California Constitution, and charter school provisions of the California Education Code.
“The courts have consistently ruled that the state must not authorize proselytizing sermons at school-sponsored events and graduations because they endorse religion and coerce students into participating in religious activity,” said Monica Miller, an attorney with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.
“Charter schools, like all public schools, must uphold the separation of church and state,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “They should not be in the business of offering sectarian prayers, which discriminate against students of minority faith or no faith at all.”
The letter demands that Hope Academy and the Morongo Unified School District take action to ensure that further violations are not committed and that prayers and sermons will no longer be permitted at school-sponsored functions.
A copy of the letter 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.