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 10, 2016)—Today in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center argued for the rights of the American Humanist Associations’ members in Greenville County, South Carolina, to participate in the school district’s graduation ceremonies without being subjected to prayers and forced to enter a Christian chapel.
The Greenville County School District includes prayer in its graduation ceremonies and holds certain elementary school graduations in the Christian chapel of an evangelical university. In 2013, the American Humanist Association filed suit on behalf of a local family and its other members asserting that the school district’s graduation practices violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Last year, the Appignani Humanist Legal Center appealed the case after a district court upheld the school district’s current prayer policy and ruled that the family lost its standing to challenge the school district’s use of a chapel venue.
After presenting the American Humanist Association’s first argument before a federal appellate court, Senior Counsel Monica Miller said, “The Greenville County School District’s prayer policy coerces students into participating in prayer. By subjecting a captive audience of students to Christian prayers, the school district is violating the Constitution and infringing on the rights of non-Christian students.”
“Public school graduations should be about honoring students’ accomplishments with their families, not about marginalizing non-Christian students by pressuring them to pray,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “By injecting religion into what should be a secular celebration, the school district is treating nonreligious students and students of minority faiths like second-class citizens.”
Arguments were presented before Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Judges Dennis W. Shedd, Allyson K. Duncan and Barbara Milano Keenan. The judges did not issue a ruling at this time.
Audio recording of the oral arguments is available here.
An image from the oral arguments can be viewed below.
Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., 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.