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School Prayer Event Cancelled after AHLC Objects

For Immediate Release

Contact: Amy Couch, 202-238-9088,

David Niose, 202-238-9088,

(Washington, D.C., September 5, 2017) The Appignani Humanist Legal Center has won another victory in the its battle to protect the separation of church and state. The AHLC was alerted to a prayer event scheduled to take place at an Ohio high school on August 19. The principal’s social media posts strongly urged all to attend the prayer group, making statements like “Prayer Wins!” and “We have been doing this every year since I became principal.”

In a letter to the principal in question, AHLC legal director David Niose wrote, “To the extent that this prayer event is initiated and sponsored by you or the school, we strongly urge you to cancel it. Such use of your position as principal to endorse religion would inappropriately cross the line of church-state separation. While we certainly recognize that you, individually, have a First Amendment right to free exercise of religion, that right does not allow you to use your public position, paid for by taxpayers of all religious backgrounds, to promote your personal religious beliefs.”

In a written response from David Smigelski, legal counsel for the school district in question, prior knowledge of the principal’s intention to hold a prayer gathering at the school was denied by both the Board of Education and its Superintendent. Smigelski confirmed that the event was cancelled.

“We’re pleased that the event was cancelled,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, “as such school-sponsored religious activities have no place in a public school environment.”

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