For Immediate Release
Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105, firstname.lastname@example.org
David Niose, 202-238-9088 ext. 119, email@example.com
Monica Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 120, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Washington, D.C., Dec. 2, 2014)—Today the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center received a positive response from officials at MacNeal School in Westchester, Illinois, and Milne-Kelvin Grove District 91 concerning a student who was denied his constitutional right to remain seated during the school’s daily Pledge of Allegiance exercise when the school’s policy was changed.
On November 21, the Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter to officials at MacNeal School and Milne-Kelvin Grove District 91 on behalf of an eighth grade, atheist student at MacNeal School who has chosen to exercise his right to refrain from participating in the Pledge of Allegiance because he objects to the phrase “under God.” On November 18, the school instituted a policy requiring all students to stand for the Pledge, forcing the student to participate in it despite his sincerely held objections to the language. Shortly thereafter, school officials said the student could stand in the hallway during the Pledge recitation, but he could not remain in the classroom unless he participated in the exercise. According to the letter, this exclusionary treatment violates the student’s First Amendment rights under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1943 ruling in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, as well as the Illinois Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion.
Following the legal center’s letter, the school officials agreed to change their policy of requiring students to stand for the Pledge and have provided the legal center with written assurances that the student will be allowed to remain seated at his desk during the daily Pledge exercise.
“We are pleased with the school’s response to our letter and appreciate the steps they have taken to alter their Pledge policy so that it does not infringe upon students’ First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and conscience,” said Monica Miller, an attorney with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.
American Humanist Association is supporting a national boycott of the Pledge, publicized at BoycottthePledge.com. The boycott aims to raise awareness of the discriminatory nature of the phrase “under God” and encourage Americans to support the wording of the Pledge before it was altered to include the phrase in 1954, during the McCarthy era.
A copy of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center’s letter can be found 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.