For Immediate Release
Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105, email@example.com
Monica Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 120, firstname.lastname@example.org
David Niose, 202-238-9088 ext. 119, email@example.com
(Washington, D.C., Oct. 14, 2014)— The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center has sent a letter to officials at Rankin County School District in Flowood, Mississippi, regarding Northwest Rankin Elementary School’s actions in assisting the Gideons in distributing Bibles to elementary school students.
On October 7, 2014, the principal of the elementary school sent an email instructing all fifth grade teachers to walk their students through the lobby where Gideon Bibles were being distributed. The letter claims that by assisting the Gideons in distributing Bibles to a captive audience of elementary school students, the school district is sending the unconstitutional message that it endorses religion over non-religion and Christianity in particular.
“The school district’s actions seriously infringe upon the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and violate the terms of a court-ordered consent decree,” said Monica Miller, an attorney with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, in reference to a consent decree entered into by the school on November 22, 2013, in the legal center’s case of M. B. v. Rankin County School District et al. “In the consent decree, the school district admitted that it violated the First Amendment rights of our client and agreed not to violate the Establishment Clause in the future,” Miller explained.
“Public schools are not in the business of religious proselytizing,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “Distributing Bibles shows a blatant disregard for the rights of students of religious minorities and nonreligious students.”
The letter demands that the school district refrain from permitting the distribution of Bibles on the premises of its elementary and middle schools during school hours. Furthermore, the letter demands that if any Bibles or other religious materials are to be distributed in district high schools, then there must be a written open forum policy made accessible to the public, school district employees must not solely promote the Gideons or their Bibles, religious materials must not be made available during instructional time, and there must be a written disclaimer near any religious materials stating that they are not endorsed by the school.
On May 7, 2014, the attorneys at the Appignani Humanist Legal Center filed a motion to hold the school district in contempt for violating the terms of the consent decree by including a Christian prayer in a school-sponsored awards ceremony for students with high ACT scores.
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.