(Washington, D.C., May 21, 2018)—Today the American Humanist Association (AHA) filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit against a lower court ruling that legitimized the U.S. House of Representatives’ practice of excluding atheists and Humanists from participating in the legislative invocation practice.
U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer ruled against plaintiff Dan Barker in his case against House Chaplain Patrick Conroy for preventing him from delivering a secular invocation. Also named as a defendant was Paul Ryan, speaker of the House, who oversees the chaplain's office.
“Allowing the lower court’s ruling to stand would go against 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. “The Supreme Court in Town of Greece made clear that although legislative prayer is allowed as an exception to the general rule against government-endorsed prayer, the government cannot play favorites in selecting legislative invocators and certainly cannot categorically exclude Humanists and atheists from the practice.”
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. The AHA also filed an amicus brief in support of the Appellees in Williamson et al v. Brevard County involving a similar issue.
Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., 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 worldview 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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