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., Dec. 18, 2014)—The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center has received a response from officials at Dorchester School District Two in Summerville, South Carolina, in regards to a letter sent by the legal center concerning a fundraiser and food drive sponsored by Oakbrook Elementary School that benefitted a local Christian church. The school district has agreed not to sponsor or endorse churches and religious institutions in the future.
“We strongly support charitable giving, but the good intentions of fundraisers and food drives can be achieved in ways that do not favor any religion,” said David Niose, legal director of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “Just as a Christian family might be reluctant to support a public school fundraiser that benefitted a Muslim organization, non-Christian families can feel uncomfortable supporting Christian institutions.”
On November 20, the Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter to the district on behalf of concerned parents that admonished the school district and Oakbrook Elementary School (OES) for sponsoring a local Christian evangelical church, Old Fort Baptist Church, and Community Impact for Christ food bank through the sale of “thank you grams” and a canned food drive. Proceeds from the fundraiser and the food drive were to be donated to the church, and the fundraisers were advertised through flyers given to students at the elementary school during instructional time and on the school’s website. The letter stated that these actions violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution and demanded that the school district terminate this and any similar fundraisers or activities.
After some further communications between attorneys for both sides, the school district has now made written assurances that “OES, including its student council or similar school-sponsored body, will refrain from endorsing, sponsoring or fundraising for any church or religious institution.” The school district also stated that it had donated the proceeds from the fundraiser and food drive directly to needy students and that its student handbook would be amended to include a disclaimer that activities by non-school-sponsored student groups were not endorsed by the school.
A copy of the letter sent by the Appignani Humanist Legal Center 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.