For Immediate Release
Contact: Sam Gerard, firstname.lastname@example.org
(April 21, 2020, Washington, DC) – On Monday, the American Humanist Association (AHA) admonished Tyler Independent School District (TISD) school officials in Tyler, Texas for unconstitutionally holding school activities at Green Acres Baptist Church. The letter details the religiosity of the setting: “Green Acres Baptist Church is a traditional church sanctuary, is used regularly for chapel services and contains stained glass portraying a large cross, and religious literature in the pews.”
“TISD’s practice of opening a mandatory convocation with a chaplain-led prayer, particularly when students are present, violates the Establishment Clause,” wrote AHA Legal Director and Senior Counsel Monica Miller in the letter. Miller’s letter further warned that “holding convocations and other school events in a Christian church independently violates the Establishment Clause.”
The School District hosts a yearly convocation for teachers at the church where teacher attendance is mandated, and so is the attendance of those students who perform the national anthem. School events, including a choir and orchestra rehearsal of middle-school aged students and a football banquet for students attending a district high school were held at the church. The letter also notes that TISD entered into a contractual agreement with the Baptist church to “honor the beliefs” of the church in the school’s various activities held at the church.
“The precedent is beyond clear that public schools cannot hold mandatory school events in a proselytizing Christian environment,” Miller explains.
AHA Executive Director Roy Speckhardt added: “The repeated patronage of the same religious institution, for activities that should be kept religiously neutral, isn’t something the public should abide.”
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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 worldview of humanism, which—without beliefs in 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.