Today, July 20, 2015, the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center reached a favorable settlement in its lawsuit against the Hall County School District in Gainesville, Georgia, which challenged the district’s promotion of prayer and Christianity through its athletics programs, including its Chestatee High School football program.
“This is a victory for the separation of church and state,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “When public schools remain secular, they uphold the rights of all students to learn, free from unnecessary religious intrusion.”
Under the settlement, the school superintendent will issue a memorandum detailing the standards for religious neutrality required by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and the Equal Access Act to the principals in all of its 36 schools. The district will host a training session before the start of the school year for administrators, who will educate staff and coaches on their constitutional duties. The district also agrees to pay the American Humanist Association’s legal fees of $22,500.
“We are pleased that the district is taking productive steps forward to ensure compliance with the Constitution, and we expect that it will stop the student-staff prayer activities and other problematic conduct,” said David Niose, legal director of the American Humanist Association.
The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent two letters to the district in August 2014, complaining of the infusion of religion into the school’s sports programs. The American Humanist Association also submitted photographs of coaches leading students in prayer, student football players joining hands in a prayer circle, and banners displaying Christian scripture. The district failed to respond adequately, and after numerous complaints from students and parents, the Appignani Humanist Legal Center filed a lawsuit in December 2014.
A copy of the lawsuit can be viewed here.