Humanist group threatens JPS lawsuit over prayer - - Jackson, MS

Humanist group threatens JPS lawsuit over prayer

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

The Jackson public school district is the target of a possible lawsuit. The issue is prayer. 

A public school teacher objected to the religious nature of a mandatory teacher's meeting August 12.

The American Humanist Legal Center says JPS violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

Mississippi is in the heart of the bible belt where churches dot the landscape and prayer flows freely. According to the American Humanist Association in Washington, D.C., the unidentified teacher filed a complaint that the Jackson Public School district over-stepped legal boundaries.

"We looked at the governing law and it made it pretty clear that public schools aren't allowed to inject religion through prayer or service or any other sort of proselytizing religious activity at a public school event, especially at a mandatory public school event such as this one" attorney Monica Miller said on Monday.

A letter was sent to Superintendent Cedrick Gray on August 25.

The American Humanist Legal Center says the mandatory teacher meeting at the coliseum included prayers, a church-themed call and respond with the audience and specific references to scripture.

We spoke with the lawyer, Monica Miller, who is threatening to file a lawsuit against the district.

"If you are not a practicing Christian and you don't subscribe to prayer attending a mandatory event where prayer is made a large part of the event really makes you feel like you are not included in it and uncomfortable. It really is not an appropriate place or time for religious activity," according to Miller. 

Miller told us this could be resolved outside of the courts by simple resolution of the school district not doing this again.

WLBT contacted the Superintendent's office and they issued this statement:

The Jackson Public School District acknowledges receiving a letter from the Appignani Humanist Legal Center regarding events taking place during the 2014 Convocation ceremony. The JPS Legal Department is reviewing the letter and will respond appropriately as needed. The annual Convocation program is a celebratory event intended to invigorate employees with enthusiasm, pride, and excitement for the beginning of a new school year.

 This is not the first metro area school district to be sued by this organization.

In 2013, the group and the Rankin County School District settled a lawsuit that was centered around allegations that high school students were forced to attend religious programs.

A lawsuit filed in April 2013 by the American Humanist Association, asked a federal judge to prohibit the district from having religious assemblies.

In an agreement filed in U.S. District court, the school district agreed to comply with its religion in public schools policy.

Copyright 2013 MSNewsNow. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly