For Immediate Release
Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105, firstname.lastname@example.org
Monica Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 120, email@example.com
(Oakland, Calf., June 7, 2016)—The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center warned the California Highway Patrol yesterday that officers’ publicly praying while on duty and promoting prayer on social media violates the Establishment Clause.
The American Humanist Association was alerted to highway patrol officers’ religious promotion by a California citizen. The legal center cites a Facebook video post displaying a uniformed officer leading a group of citizens in prayer, while another uniformed officer participates.
“Highway patrol officers’ proselytizing on the job, in addition to advertising such activity on social media, clearly endorses religion thus violating the state and federal Constitutions,” said Monica Miller, senior counsel for the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “Numerous citizens and taxpayers object to this religious promotion, and we insist that the California Highway Patrol prevent future incidents like this one.”
“Law enforcement has a duty to protect, not convert.” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “When officers lead prayers on duty, they send an intimidating message to nonreligious citizens who may feel pressured to participate in religion and may feel unsafe in their own communities.”
The American Humanist Association informs the California Highway Patrol that it should instruct officers to refrain from leading religious activity while on duty in the future.
UPDATED June 8, 2016: The American Humanist Association received a reply from the California Highway Patrol.
“The California Highway Patrol is taking our concerns seriously, and we appreciate their prompt response to this serious constitutional violation,” said Monica Miller, senior counsel at the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “When the state endorses prayer, it has a coercive effect on citizens, who may feel compelled to participate in the religious activity against their own convictions.”
The American Humanist Association is satisfied with the California Highway Patrol’s response, but it will continue to monitor the situation to ensure that the separation of church and state is upheld.
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.