For Immediate Release
Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105, firstname.lastname@example.org
David Niose, 202-238-9088 ext. 119, email@example.com
(Joplin, MO, Dec. 20, 2016)—The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center demands that North Middle School in Joplin, Missouri, end a Bible study program in which teachers and outside clergy lead students in prayer and scripture readings in school during regular school hours.
A parent who learned about the Bible studies from her daughter, a student at the school, notified the American Humanist Association. A teacher and church staff lead the meetings, which take place on Thursday mornings during the school’s breakfast period, and invite students to the session under the guise of free donuts, which are not handed out until the Bible study is over. The teacher encourages students to pray, leads students in prayer, reads scripture and gives lessons about religious symbols, such as Advent candles. Clergy also pray with students and teach scripture lessons.
“It is unconstitutional for public school teachers to pressure students into participating in prayer or other religious activities,” said David Niose, legal director of the American Humanist Association. “Bringing clergy onto the campus during regular school hours further blurs what should be a clear line separating church and state and violates students’ right to a secular education.”
“Enticing students to Bible studies with donuts is deceitful and inappropriate during school hours,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “Teachers should treat all of their students equally rather than giving out special treats to students who participate in Christian activities.”
The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center demands that North Middle School stop the Bible study and similar religious programs. The legal center’s letter can be viewed here.
In 2015, the American Humanist Association filed a lawsuit challenging Joplin Public School District for sending North Middle School students on an unconstitutional field trip to a religious sports complex. The lawsuit is currently awaiting summary judgment in the US District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
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.