Legal Update: AHA Demands End to Graduation Prayers, School Field Trips to Churches

The Appignani Humanist Legal Center has been very busy this past month! Check out several legal letters and pending lawsuits we’re working on to protect church-state separation.

AHA Tells Minnesota Public School: Stop Field Trips to Christian Church

A Minnesota public school is being warned by the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center to stop sending students on unconstitutional field trips to a nearby Christian church to create “manna” packages for a Christian nonprofit group. The letter was sent on February 3, 2014 by the Appignani Humanist Legal Center (AHLC) to the administrators of the School of Engineering and Arts in Golden Valley, MN, Principal Kim Hiel and Executive Director of Academics Lori Simon after the AHLC was alerted to the violation by a family enrolled in the suburban Minneapolis school. The letter asserts that the “school has quite clearly violated the Establishment Clause by directing students to attend a pervasively Christian, proselytizing environment.” The AHLC is asking for a reply within two weeks.

The church in question, Calvary Lutheran Church, is associated with the Feed My Starving Children program, which describes itself as believing “that there is one God, in three persons: Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.” School administrators refused a previous request from the family to stop the practice after their complaint was made last year.

AHA Files Federal Appeal to End Religious Elements in South Carolina Public School’s Graduation Ceremonies

The Appignani Humanist Legal Center is challenging the failure of a U.S. District Court judge to stop Mountain View Elementary School in Taylors, South Carolina, from continuing to include substantial religious elements during graduation ceremonies. Calling the denial of a preliminary injunction request by U.S. District Judge G. Ross Anderson Jr. “nothing more than the court expressing its personal dislike for the case,” AHA’s brief on appeal was filed on January 27, 2014, with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on behalf of the AHA and a local family.

School administrators have refused a request to end prayers during future graduation ceremonies and insist on continuing to hold them in the Christian chapel at religiously affiliated North Greenville University, a school with a logo that includes the sectarian phrase “Christ Makes the Difference.” The 69-page appellate brief outlines the legal justifications for stopping the elementary school’s administrators from including planned or supported religious elements in future public school graduation ceremonies.

End Unconstitutional Graduation Prayers, AHA Tells Illinois High School

In a letter to administrators at Norris City-Omaha-Enfield High School in Norris City, IL, the Appignani Humanist Legal Center demanded that prayers offered under the authority of a southern Illinois public high school’s administrators during graduation ceremonies must end.

The letter, sent on January 22, 2014 via email, informed District Superintendent Dr. Cliff Karnes and Principal Matt Vollman that “the Supreme Court has made clear that prayers offered at public school graduation ceremonies violate the Establishment Clause because they unconstitutionally coerce students to participate in a religious exercise,” also noting that “prayers offered at school-sponsored events such as graduation ceremonies are unconstitutional regardless of whether they are delivered by students or outsiders.” The AHLC is requesting a response within two weeks.

Report a church-state violation in your area by visiting the Appignani Humanist Legal Center website at A representative from the AHLC will contact you right away, and your information will be kept confidential.