(Blythewood, SC, Jan. 3, 2017)—The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center criticizes the South Carolina Department of Public Safety for using a local citizen’s grief as an opportunity to unconstitutionally proselytize Christianity.
The American Humanist Association was contacted by a citizen of Anderson, South Carolina, who identifies as an atheist and whose father had recently died in a car accident. In response to the accident, the South Carolina Department of Public Safety sent her a proselytizing Christian book, “A Time to Grieve.” The book features a cross on the cover and contains numerous Christian scriptures. It also commands to the reader to pray and have faith in God. The author, Kenneth C. Haugk, is the founder and executive director of Stephen Ministries, which publishes the book and describes itself as “a not-for-profit Christian training and educational organization.” The citizen was dismayed by the message of blatant religious proselytization from the state. In a letter sent to Director Leroy Smith in Blythewood, South Carolina, the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center condemns the South Carolina Department of Public Safety’s actions as a violation of the Establishment Clause.
“The state’s using an individual’s grief to push a religious agenda is not only unconstitutional but also grossly insensitive,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “Everyone deserves to be treated with compassion in processing the death of a loved one, and during such a difficult time, atheists should have their convictions respected in the same way that the beliefs of a grieving religious individual would be respected.”
“In giving out an inherently religious book, the government is clearly violating the constitutional right to freedom from religious endorsement by the state,” said Monica Miller, senior counsel at the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “Numerous courts have ruled against similar instances of state promotion of Christianity, and this instance is particularly egregious because the state sends the religious book to grieving families.”
The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center demands that the South Carolina Department of Public Safety respond to its letter within seven days. The letter can be viewed here.
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.
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