For Immediate Release
Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105, firstname.lastname@example.org
Monica Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 120, email@example.com
(Greenville, SC, Feb. 4, 2015)—Today the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center filed for summary judgment today in American Humanist Association v. Greenville County School District, a lawsuit challenging the school district’s practice of including prayer in its public elementary school graduation ceremonies and its practice of holding the graduations in a Christian chapel.
“Numerous cases make clear that public schools, particularly elementary schools, must strictly maintain the separation of church and state and must not include prayer in school-sponsored events such as graduation ceremonies,” said Monica Miller, an attorney with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “Given that this school district has been including prayers in its elementary school graduation ceremonies since 1951, and has recently been holding the ceremonies in a Christian chapel of a Christian university, we ask that the court grant judgment in our favor.”
The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center filed the complaint in the federal district court for South Carolina against the school district on behalf of a local family on September 11, 2013, after sending a letter to officials at Mountain View Elementary School in Taylors, South Carolina, and failing to receive an adequate response. The lawsuit describes explicitly Christian prayers being offered at the elementary school’s graduations, which were held at the chapel of the religiously-affiliated North Greenville University, a school with a logo that contains the sectarian phrase “Christ Makes the Difference.” The venue is surrounded with numerous Christian symbols, including crosses, stained glass windows, statues and other religious iconography.
The motion for summary judgment states that the material facts are undisputed and asks the court to rule in the plaintiffs’ favor as a matter of law. The lawsuit seeks a declaratory judgment that the school’s practices of endorsing prayer and hosting graduations in a chapel is a violation of the Establishment Clause. It also seeks a permanent injunction preventing the school from undertaking such activities in the future.
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.