Humanists Threaten Tennessee School District over Unconstitutional Graduation Prayers
For Immediate Release
Kate Uesugi, firstname.lastname@example.org, 808-228-6471
(Washington, DC, March 16, 2021) – Today, the American Humanist Association (AHA)’s legal director notified Tennessee school officials of looming legal action over constitutional violations occurring at Bledsoe County High School, and most likely within the Bledsoe County School district at large, in Pikeville, Tennessee.
The AHA’s demand letter, written on behalf of a concerned AHA member, details that Bledsoe County High School endorses official school prayers, which include explicit Christian references, at graduation ceremonies. AHA’s Legal Director and Senior Counsel Monica Miller explained to school officials how “no detailed analysis is necessary” to find the practice unconstitutional because “the practice is ‘inconsistent both with the purposes of the Establishment Clause and with the Establishment Clause itself.’”
“Your practice is far more flagrantly unconstitutional than others struck down by the Supreme Court,” Miller explained, “because your official graduation programs expressly instruct students to participate in Christian prayer.” The letter serves as an official notice of the unconstitutional activity and demands that immediate action is taken to put a stop to this and any similar illegal activity.
The letter cites the AHA’s recent court victory against the Greenville County Public Schools in South Carolina. Similar to Bledsoe County High School, Greenville County Public Schools had also endorsed prayer during graduation ceremonies, a practice that was “so obviously unconstitutional that even the defendant school district conceded the matter.”
AHA Executive Director Roy Speckhardt added: “We were dismayed to hear of this wrongful practice and hope that Bledsoe County Schools remedies the situation promptly.”
Read the letter here.
# # #
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.