South Carolina Department of Public Safety Will No Longer Proselytize to Grieving Families


For Immediate Release

Contact:

Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105, merrillmiller@americanhumanist.org

Monica Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 120, mmiller@americanhumanist.org

(Blythewood, SC, Jan. 6, 2017)—The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center received assurances from the South Carolina Department of Public Safety that it will no longer send out the Christian series “A Time to Grieve” to families who have lost members to traffic accidents.

In an official statement reported by WLTX-19 and by the State, the department said, “We have re-evaluated the ‘A Time to Grieve’ and will no longer send those particular pieces of literature to families following the death of a loved one in a motor-vehicle collision.” Both news outlets also reported that the South Carolina Department of Public Safety spent over $6,000 on the religious books, which were paid for by the department’s regular budget.

On Wednesday, the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center objected to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety’s sending the explicitly Christian material to grieving families. In a letter sent on behalf of an atheist citizen whose father died in a car accident, the American Humanist Association expressed dismay that the state would promote a book containing Christian scripture and evangelizing messages to grieving families, in violation of the Establishment Clause.

“The First Amendment protects the right of individuals to practice their own religion or practice no religion, and that right should be respected when they are grieving,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “We applaud the state’s agreeing to stop using a tragic situation to insensitively push a religious agenda.”

The American Humanist Association’s letter to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety can be viewed here. A photo of the book can be viewed below.

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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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