For Immediate Release
Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105, email@example.com
Monica Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 120, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Fort Worth, TX, Aug. 10, 2016)—The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center appealed the district court’s ruling upholding the Birdville Independent School District’s practice of opening school board meetings with student-led prayers.
Last Tuesday, United States District Judge John McBryde ruled against the American Humanist Association in its lawsuit challenging the Birdville school board meeting prayers. The ruling held that student prayers are allowed under a very limited exception to Establishment Clause law carved out in Marsh v. Chambers and Town of Greece v. Galloway for legislative prayers. In its appeal, the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center will argue that because the school board’s prayers are delivered by students in a quintessential school setting, they are judged according to the US Supreme Court’s school prayer cases, which hold such prayers unconstitutional. The Appignani Humanist Legal Center also emphasizes that the Town of Greece decision, like Marsh, specifically distinguished adults from public school students.
“We will continue to fight for the First Amendment rights of students who are marginalized by prayers endorsed by the school board,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “The school board is sending the divisive message that anyone who disagrees with their prayers is an outsider in the school and community.”
“Inviting and encouraging young children to pray during school board meetings unconstitutionally endorses religion and coerces children to participate in prayer,” said Monica Miller, senior counsel for the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “The Supreme Court has made clear time and again that the narrow legislative prayer exceptiondoes not apply to prayers at public school events.”
The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center has appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, where the school district’s appeal of the denial of its motion to dismiss against the individual school board members is currently pending. The American Humanist Association filed a complaint against the school district and its board members in May 2015 on behalf of Isaiah Smith, an alumnus of the district.
The notice of appeal 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.