For Immediate Release
Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105, firstname.lastname@example.org
Monica Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 120, email@example.com
(Gulfport, MS, Dec. 9, 2015)—A courthouse nativity display in Gulfport, Mississippi, is unconstitutional and must be removed, demands the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center to Harrison County officials.
The standalone nativity scene, also known as a crèche, has been prominently displayed inside the Harrison County Courthouse since November 30, 2015. Depicting the New Testament birth of Jesus, the display is dominated by Christian elements. The nativity scene was reportedly erected by courthouse staff and has been displayed in the courthouse for many years each holiday season. The American Humanist Association learned of the crèche after being contacted by a concerned citizen.
“Nativity scenes in courthouses, like any blatantly religious display on public property, show government favoritism toward religion and to Christianity in particular,” said Monica Miller, senior counsel at the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “Numerous courts, including the Supreme Court, have found these Christian displays in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”
Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, said, “When the government endorses one religion over all others, it tells people of minority faiths and of no faith that they are unwelcome in their own community.”
The American Humanist Association demands that the county remove the crèche from government property and refrain from putting up similar displays in the future.
The demand letter references the American Humanist Association’s recent victory in Baxter County, Arkansas, regarding a similar courthouse crèche found unconstitutional by the U.S. District Court in Arkansas. The American Humanist Association’s letter to Harrison County officials 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.