For Immediate Release
Patrick Hudson, Communications Assistant, (202) 238-9088, firstname.lastname@example.org
Monica Miller, Senior Counsel at the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, 202-238-9088, email@example.com
(Fort Worth, TX, April 4, 2017)—The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Legal Center filed a petition for an en banc hearing before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in its case against the Birdville Independent School District (BISD) in Fort Worth, Texas. The petition seeks to overturn a unanimous ruling by a panel of three judges from Fifth Circuit last month which allowed student-led prayers at meetings of the BISD school board.
For two decades, the BISD school board has been opening its meetings with prayers by students as young as six. A vast majority of these invocations are Christian in nature, and other students who come from varied backgrounds are subjected to these prayers regardless of their beliefs. The American Humanist Association was made aware of these unconstitutional invocations by Isaiah Smith, an alumnus of the school district, who felt isolated and excluded by the school board’s practice of promoting religion in the public sphere.
“We continue this case to preserve the rights of students everywhere,” said Monica Miller, senior counsel for the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “The school board’s practice of allowing student-led prayer violates longstanding and important principles of church-state separation.”
“While we are disappointed in the court’s decision, we remain strong in our effort to ensure that children can attend board meetings without the fear of being ostracized for their beliefs,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association.
More information on the rehearing en banc can be found 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.