For Immediate Release
Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105, firstname.lastname@example.org
Monica Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 120, email@example.com
(Richmond, VA, May 9, 2016)—Tomorrow, in its first oral argument before a federal appeals court, the American Humanist Association will defend the constitutional rights of its Greenville County, South Carolina, members in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Monica Miller, senior counsel with the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center, will argue that the school district’s practices of permitting student-led prayers at graduations and holding elementary school ceremonies in a Christian chapel violate the Establishment Clause.
“By including prayers at graduation ceremonies and holding some in Christian venues, the school district is compelling nonreligious and non-Christian students to participate in religious practices that they do not agree with,” said Miller. “This is a flagrant violation of students’ First Amendment right to be free from religious coercion by the state.”
Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, said, “Students should not be made to feel like outsiders in their own public school, but the Greenville County School District’s Christian graduations put non-Christian students in an unfair position where they must choose to go along with the religious program or skip graduation entirely. No child should be put in such a marginalizing position by their own school.”
In 2013, the Appignani Humanist Legal Center filed a lawsuit against the school district for subjecting a captive audience of children to Christian prayers at school-sponsored events and holding the elementary events in a Christian chapel within a Baptist university. In May of last year, the U.S. District Court for South Carolina upheld the school district’s current prayer practice and ruled that the local family originally bringing the suit lost its standing to challenge the school district’s religious venue practice because their children changed schools within the district. The Appignani Humanist Legal Center appealed the lawsuit and asked the Fourth Circuit to reverse the district court’s decision.
The oral arguments will take place on May 10, 2016, at 9:30am ET at 1100 East Main Street, Suite 510, Richmond, Virginia, 23219.
Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, DC, the American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other nontheistic 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.