Humanist Group to Appeal South Carolina Court Decision on Religious Graduations

May 22, 2015

By AHA

Attorneys at the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center will appeal yesterday’s ruling by the United States District Court of South Carolina, which upheld a public school district’s practice of permitting the delivery of Christian prayers at graduation ceremonies.

“It’s a sad day when the courts allow students to be subjected to Christian prayers during what should be a secular graduation ceremony,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “These prayers exclude kids and families of minority faiths and no faith.”

The Court’s ruling partially favors the American Humanist Association by enjoining the school district’s prayer policy prior to 2013, which explicitly included prayer. However, the ruling still allows the Greenville County School District to include Christian prayers at public school graduations.


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19 comments on “Humanist Group to Appeal South Carolina Court Decision on Religious Graduations

  • Perhaps better than legal means will be demonstrations to object. Christians will not want their religion held up to contempt.

    The theme might be JWs and door knocking. “No means No”.

    “my religion forbids listening to prayers to Jehovah”

    “no forced worship of false gods”

    The last thing the Christians want is for secularists to get more publicity out of the graduation than they do.



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  • 2
    aroundtown says:

    The picture alone of this post is telling. The young man 4th from the right has the appearance of an individual who is fully aware/awake but the others are mired down in a ritual of weepy adherence to tradition. Bow your heads and submit to your god with reverence and fear, that is what I see in the others. The religious make sure to plant these rituals early in the young. Sunday school, bible school, church, and all the other venues are opportunities to imprint religion in their minds.

    The religious could go to church after graduation and practice their worship rituals but they would miss the opportunity to shove it down everyones throat if they did that. Religious freedom my foot, forced religious practice is the drill at this graduation.



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  • graduating from [ ] have to do with…

    Number 48 under ‘Nature of the Claims’: http://www.americanhumanist.org/system/storage/2/81/1/4476/Mountain_View_Complaint.pdf

    *Objection – use of stock image photo is (mis)leading – the plaintiffs are one family, referred to as John, Jane, and a minor, Jill Doe.

    Appeal motion indicates dissatisfaction by family and AHA for inclusion of future (Christian) prayers at graduations; district claims any further concessions would cross the line into “hostility towards religion” territory.



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  • Excellent observation, aroundtown! The young man on the fourth from the right is being oppressed, and he represents, is symbolic of, truth (reason) being subjugated by superstition – as always.
    But we’ve had enough. That photo ought to go viral, or get on the cover of a few newspapers – with the heading: “The fourth man from the right. We are with you.” Or some hokey, yet effective line like that.
    Roedy raises an excellent question: the efficacy of legal means versus a public outcry. Mass action is usually better, or more precisely, it adds weight to the former.



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  • Are you a lawyer? Can’t figure out what your position is. Do you have one?

    I am also against Christmas pageants and even the pledge of allegiance at this point. I am not under God. I am a sober person, not an old cow with superstitious beliefs or a white haired old man (a Republican) who doesn’t want there to be stem-cell research because it offends him but who advocates the use of drones after supporting a war (with Iraq) that was pushed by Neocons (fascists).

    What’s wrong with hostility toward religion? Religion is hostile to us: do you want creation being taught in the science classroom? Would you want your husband or wife or son or daughter being forced to participate in a prayer to the god Apollo at his or her graduation? We were hostile towards slavery and sexism (which is fostered by the Bible to a large extent!), and discrimination (during the civil rights era), weren’t we? Religious freedom is important, but freedom FROM religion is equally important, Bonnie.



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  • Dan
    May 23, 2015 at 4:19 pm

    Are you a lawyer? Can’t figure out what your position is. Do you have one?

    I think bonnie is just providing a link to the legal documents for reference.

    They are indeed written in legal language for presentation to the court. – Not the easiest material for non-lawyers to understand.



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  • I guess she was just giving the link for reference. Thanks.

    I worry, Alan, about language. It is not that hard to make a weaker argument appear stronger. And lawyers are trained to find loopholes in the language; the more detailed a conversation becomes, the more niceties it involves, the happier they are. This can also be a good thing: precise distinctions should be made. By in large, however, the legal process is a game, not about what is fair and just.

    And there is so much manipulation of language outside of the courtroom, in our daily lives; the Republicans are great at that. “Pro-Life”, for example. And now we have “Religious Freedom.” The list of manipulative phrases is endless.

    I too have mixed feelings about Christmas pageants. I love Xmas carols and sang in a pageant when I was a kid. Maybe the school principal should be required to say: “this is just a tradition. You don’t have to believe in Christ or in God.” A disclaimer, in other words. Maybe that would be enough to comfort the bewildered and alienated, and curb the spread of pernicious nonsense.



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  • Dan
    May 23, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    Hi Dan,

    I worry, Alan, about language. It is not that hard to make a weaker argument appear stronger.

    In the archives of this site there are discussions of various would-be theist philosophers, who produced obfuscating arguments to try to confuse me with shifting meanings and fallacies.

    And lawyers are trained to find loopholes in the language;

    I get to go outside my usual area of science, when I supervise university law exams and check question papers over for typos etc.

    the more detailed a conversation becomes, the more niceties it involves, the happier they are. This can also be a good thing: precise distinctions should be made.

    Usually, the weaker the argument, the more beating around the bush is involved!

    By in large, however, the legal process is a game, not about what is fair and just.

    Fortunately I get to hear of, and discuss various examples – My daughter is a lawyer.



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  • Hi, Alan,
    I am sure there are a lot of values-based, well-intentioned, honest attorneys out there. I was using broad strokes, speaking in very general terms.

    What concerns me more than the justice system is the obfuscation of meaning through language (although that problem that does apply to the legal world). The rabid creationist William Lane Craig had this to say, in a debate with the late Hitchens:

    “I am perfectly within my rational rights to believe in God based on this experience [God’s realness to him] just as I believe in the reality of the external world.” And he received a huge applause from his many devotees!

    Moreover, you can fool too many of the people too much of the time. (Lincoln should have added that as a warning.)



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  • Good thoughts Dan, one and all. The link is indeed a reference per hgldr‘s inquiry.

    Not sure why the chapel (location of said graduation) part of the suit was dismissed.



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  • Thanks. Sorry if I sounded antagonistic.

    You must be a lawyer, though: they love the word “said” and the phrase “as per.” (I’m just kidding.)

    This has nothing to with this discussion but I have a quick, amusing lawyer story. I was dealing with a state agency here in NY. I had filed harassment charges against my landlord. The case was being handled by a young attorney who was in charge of the case. She was working within a bureaucracy so in hindsight I think I was a little unfair. But she refused to prosecute my awful landlord, and kept referring to my claims as allegations, in spite of what I considered to be overwhelming and incontrovertible evidence.

    Finally, in a fit of rage I wrote this: “I believe as per that you are as per either as per incompetent, as per stupid, or as per biased. Most likely as per it is as per a combination of all three.”

    Needless to say, my case was closed and I was forced to vacate.



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  • Dan
    May 23, 2015 at 7:38 pm

    Hi, Alan,
    I am sure there are a lot of values-based, well-intentioned, honest attorneys out there. I was using broad strokes, speaking in very general terms.

    Just so we don’t end up talking at cross purposes, I am in England and my daughter is a lawyer in England, although she did work as a para-legal secretary for a Manhattan law firm during a gap year.

    There are useless lawyers, – as my daughter informed me about a recent property transaction which fell through, because, as she put it, – “When weeks outside the time limits required by the codes of practice, the sellers lawyers still could not do their job, AFTER she had reminded them of the codes, told them how to do it!



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  • It was an elementary school graduation held at a local college. The Supreme Court has been clear on this– NO PRAYERS IN PUBLIC K-12 GRADUATION CEREMONIES! Of course, schools (just like this one) violate the Constitution every day… Unless someone files suit they just keep doing it. Eventually, the federal courts will uphold the law suit and find against the school district. It is a shame that the school district will have to spend so much money defending this policy only to lose. The voter of the District should vote the School Board out on their ear for failing their fiduciary responsibility to the tax payers.



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  • Probably because it was “just the venue” for the event– although I totally feel it is inappropriate as well. It may not legally violate the Constitution if religious preferences are not referred to during the ceremony…. It is that reference in the form of an actual Christian prayer (or any prayer) that is the problem. Not necessarily the venue.



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