(Washington, D.C., April 24, 2018)—Today the American Humanist Association (AHA) filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in support of a lower court ruling that declared that excluding atheists and Humanists from legislative invocation practices violates both the U.S. and Florida Constitutions. Two Humanist Society Celebrants, Keith Becher and David Williamson, are plaintiffs in the case. Both are also leaders of local AHA groups in Florida.
In October, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida ruled that the Brevard County Florida’s Board of County Commissioners invocation policy showed favoritism for certain faiths in direct violation of the Establishment Clause. The AHA brief, endorsed by the Unitarian Universalist Association and the American Ethical Union, argues that the District Court’s decision should be upheld.
“Reversal of this sound ruling would contravene decades of binding First Amendment precedent holding that the government cannot prefer some religions over others, and religion over nonreligion,” said Monica Miller, Senior Counsel of the AHA’s Legal Center. “Moreover, the Supreme Court has specifically declared that Humanism and atheism must be treated as ‘religions’ for Establishment Clause purposes.”
This brief is filed on the heels of the AHA’s recent legal victory in the U.S. District Court of North Carolina, which ruled that the disparate treatment of Humanist inmates violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.