For Immediate Release
Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105, firstname.lastname@example.org
Monica Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 120, email@example.com
(Fort Worth, TX, Sept. 24, 2015)—A United States District Court in Texas refused to dismiss the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center’s lawsuit against the school board and officials of Birdville Independent School District, challenging their practice of offering Christian prayers before school board meetings.
“The court’s refusal to grant the defendants’ motion to dismiss signifies that our client’s First Amendment right to be free from government-endorsed religion will eventually be vindicated as this case progresses,” said Monica Miller, senior counsel with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.
The lawsuit was filed in May and claimed that the school board’s longstanding practice of inviting students to deliver Christian prayers before school board meetings is unconstitutional. Meetings are open to the public, and students and teachers regularly attend them. Former student, Isaiah Smith, a plaintiff in the proceeding, described the religious nature of the meetings as making him feel uncomfortable and unwelcome.
The lawsuit also alleges that this is not the first constitutional violation committed by the school district, which has promoted Christianity through sponsoring religious baccalaureate ceremonies, school overnight trips to churches, and Christian iconography displayed in classrooms. As a high school student in the district, Smith was also wrongfully suspended, though later exonerated, for carrying a ripped Bible in peaceful protest against other students who bullied him because of his sexual orientation.
“It is shameful that the school district has repeatedly privileged religion at the expense of students’ right to a safe and secular education” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “Public schools must be free from religious bullying and coercion.”
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.