The American Humanist Association has filed a motion of contempt against the Rankin County
School District and its administrators for including a prayer in
a school ceremony.
The organization says the school-sponsored prayer violates a federal judge's ruling
requiring the school district to comply with the Establishment Clause of the
The motion says the school district hosted an awards ceremony for students that
included a formal prayer delivered by a Christian pastor. The prayer was
Christian in nature and made a specific reference to the resurrection of Jesus
Students were asked to stand and then bow their heads for the prayer.
Students were also told to wear "church attire" to the event, which was held
days before Easter Sunday.
The American Humanist Association contends that the
public school district's actions unconstitutionally endorsed religion and
coerced students into participating in a religious observance.
"Public schools are not in the business of prayer. Specifically making time
for prayer in assemblies and award ceremonies threatens our nation's
constitutional principles and disregards the rights of our children," said Roy
Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association.
In April 2013, the American Humanist Association filed a lawsuit on behalf
of local high school students against the Rankin County School District for
sponsoring mandatory student events that contained religious proselytizing. In
November, a federal court ruled that the school's actions violated the
Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.