For Immediate Release
Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105, firstname.lastname@example.org
Monica Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 120, email@example.com
(Fort Worth, TX, July 19, 2016)—In a brief filed yesterday evening with a US District Court, the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center requests that the court rule in favor of the American Humanist Association and Isaiah Smith in their lawsuit challenging the Birdville Independent School District’s practice of opening school board meetings with student-delivered prayers.
Since 1997, the school board has been opening meetings with prayers given primarily by elementary and middle school students. The vast majority of these opening invocations are Christian prayers. Other students are present and subjected to the prayers at these meetings. Smith, an alumnus, attended school board meetings and felt ostracized by the practice because the prayers promoted religion over nonreligion.
“Every appellate court case involving school board prayers has ruled against the practice, and we ask the district court to uphold this precedent in our lawsuit against the Birdville Independent School District,” said Monica Miller, senior counsel for the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “Subjecting impressionable young students to prayers at school events is unconstitutionally coercive under Supreme Court caselaw.”
“Public school boards should be neutral on religion,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “By opening meetings with prayers, the Birdville school board is sending the message that they favor Christianity over other religions, and that non-Christian community members are unwelcome.”
The American Humanist Association asks the court to rule in its favor after the court denied the Birdville Independent School District’s motion to have the lawsuit dismissed. The school district’s appeal to have the case dismissed against the individual board members is currently pending in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has scheduled oral arguments for August 29, 2016.
A copy of the complaint against the school district, filed last year, can be viewed here. The American Humanist Association’s brief filed in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals can be viewed here, and its brief seeking judgment against the district can be viewed here.
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.