Humanists to Get their Day in Court, Appeals Court Rules

For Immediate Release

Contact: Patrick Hudson, Communications Assistant, 202-238-9088, phudson@americanhumanist.org

David Niose, Legal Director, 202-238-9088, dniose@americanhumanist.org

(Denver, CO, June 20, 2017)—The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the American Humanist Association (AHA) and a parent have a right to pursue their claims against the Douglas County School District in Colorado for sponsoring religious activities in violation of the First Amendment. The ruling, in a case brought by the AHA’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center, reverses in part a ruling by the lower court which dismissed the AHA’s claims for lack of legal standing.

The Tenth Circuit found that the mother and her son had direct unwelcome contact with the impermissible religious activities, noting that she “was directly and personally solicited by school officials to donate to a ‘mission’ trip, and she was informed that a class at her son’s school was ‘partnering with’ a religious group, the ‘Fellowship of Christian Athletes,’ to conduct the fundraiser.” The Tenth Circuit further held that the lower court was wrong to dismiss AHA as a plaintiff because it has standing to challenge such actions on behalf of its members.

“We look forward to further hearing on the merits of the case,” said David Niose, AHA legal director. “With standing now established for AHA and one of the families, we will show that the school district clearly violated church-state separation with its actions.”

The case was argued last November, with the appeals court’s ruling being handed down today.

The lawsuit challenges the school district’s actions in promoting and fundraising for Christian organizations including Operation Christmas Child, run by evangelical minister Franklin Graham (son of Billy Graham), Adventures in Missions,™ a program that takes students abroad to proselytize to locals, and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

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Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., the American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other non-religious 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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