For Immediate Release
(Gulfport, MS, Dec. 22, 2015)— Harrison County officials have included a local humanist group’s holiday display alongside the county’s courthouse nativity scene, so the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center will not pursue its lawsuit at this time.
“We are satisfied that the courthouse has chosen to be inclusive of religious and nonreligious displays, and we hope that county officials will continue to grant equal access to other non-Christian groups,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association.
The Mississippi Gulf Coast Humanist, Atheist and Freethinker Association, a chapter of the American Humanist Association submitted a holiday display depicting an image of the axial tilt of the earth as “the reason for the season.” Today the Harrison County courthouse included this display in its entrance, along with a nativity scene depicting the New Testament birth of Jesus. On December 9, the American Humanist Association warned Harrison County officials that the exclusively Christian nativity was an unconstitutional endorsement of Christianity and threatened to sue. In light of the county’s decision to accept displays depicting worldviews other than Christianity, the American Humanist Association’s legal center will not file a lawsuit in this instance.
“The inclusion of the humanist display in the courthouse diminishes the overtly Christian nature of the prior display,” said Monica Miller, senior counsel with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “But to ensure that Harrison County officials uphold the First Amendment, we will continue monitoring the situation.”
The American Humanist Association’s letter to Harrison County officials can be viewed here. An image of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Humanist, Atheist and Freethinker Association’s display is available here for media use with credit to the American Humanist Association.
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.