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AHLC Seeks Rehearing in Case Challenging Texas School Prayers

For Immediate Release


Patrick Hudson, Communications Assistant, 202-238-9088,

Monica Miller, Senior Counsel at the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, 202-238-9088,

(Fort Worth, TX, March 22, 2017) The American Humanist Association (AHA) has announced that it will challenge the decision rendered by a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday, which allows Birdville Independent School District in Fort Worth, Texas, to continue subjecting students to prayers at school board meetings. Oral arguments were held on February 7 in New Orleans, Louisiana, where AHA’s Senior Counsel, Monica Miller, argued that the school prayers violate the Establishment Clause because they endorse religion and coerce impressionable schoolchildren to participate in religious exercise.

Judges Jerry Edwin Smith, appointed by Ronald Reagan, Edith Clement and Leslie Southwick, both appointed by George W. Bush, decided the case in a 3-0 decision. The AHA will be filing a petition for rehearing en banc to challenge the decision.

“The panel’s ruling is unprecedented and directly conflicts with precedent from the other appeals courts that have addressed this issue,” said Monica Miller, Senior Counsel at the AHA’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “More importantly, the panel’s ruling contravenes binding Supreme Court precedent, which requires lower courts to distinguish public school students from adults, and apply heightened scrutiny to protect freedom of conscience from even subtle coercive pressures.”

A copy of the AHA’s legal briefs can be viewed here and here. The oral arguments can be heard 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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