For Immediate Release
Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105, firstname.lastname@example.org
David Niose, 202-238-9088 ext. 119, email@example.com
(Joplin, MO, May 27, 2015)—Today the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center filed a lawsuit in federal court against officials at Joplin Schools Public School District in Joplin, Missouri, challenging the district’s student field trip to a Christian sports complex.
“Proselytizing to kids on a field trip disrespects the rights of students of minority faiths and of no faith,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “No child should be forced to choose between attending an unconstitutional field trip or missing a day of school.”
Filed on behalf of a local parent and her two children, the lawsuit states that on May 8, 2015, students at North Middle School were sent on a field trip to Victory Ministries and Sports complex, a Christian ministry with facilities that prominently feature religious slogans and images. Before the field trip, students took home permission slips that required parents to allow their children to participate in worship services and prayer. The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent emails to the district, warning officials that the field trip was unconstitutional, but the district proceeded with the event.
“By sending students on a field trip to an overtly Christian venue with proselytizing Christian messages, the public school district is engaging in unconstitutional conduct,” said David Niose, legal director of the American Humanist Association. “It is unimaginable that the school would have sent its students to a complex that promoted Islam, Scientology or another minority religion in a similar way.”
The lawsuit seeks a declaratory judgment that district officials violated the Establishment Clause and a permanent injunction preventing the district from sending students on similarly religious-themed field trips.
A copy of the lawsuit 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.