Ohio Student Sits Out Pledge of Allegiance, Told He Will Be Punished

(Washington, D.C., Oct. 14, 2014)—Today the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter to officials at East Gurnsey Local Schools in Old Washington, Ohio, and at Buckeye Trail High School in Lore City, Ohio, on behalf of a student who was threatened with punishment when he exercised his right to refrain from participating in the school’s daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

The student, a sophomore who wishes to opt out of the Pledge exercise for religious reasons, was told by his teacher that he was being disrespectful when he attempted to remain seated quietly and non-disruptively at his desk. His teacher also informed him that he would be disciplined if he sat out the Pledge again. The letter states that this is a violation of the student’s constitutional rights.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed the right of students to opt out of the Pledge exercise for any reason,” said Monica Miller, an attorney with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, in reference to the 1943 case West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette. “Doing so is a matter of students’ freedom of speech and freedom of consciousness.”

The letter demands that the school district inform teachers and students that students have the right to refrain from participating in the Pledge of Allegiance for any reason and that teachers be instructed that they should not attempt to persuade students to stand for the Pledge if they choose to do otherwise. The letter also demands that teachers be notified that they are not to direct any disciplinary measures at students who opt out of the Pledge.

A copy of the letter can be viewed here.

Christian Scripture On School Monument Will Be Removed, Says Georgia School Board

(Washington, D.C., Oct. 15, 2014)—The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center applauds the Madison County School Board in Danielsville, Georgia, for deciding to modify a sculpture located at the Madison High School football stadium that prominently displays biblical references and Christian scripture.

“No public school should be promoting the majority religion,” said David Niose, legal director of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “We are pleased that the school board has decided to respect the constitutional separation of church and state and the rights of religious and nonreligious minorities.”

On September 25, the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter to the Madison County School Board about the monument on behalf of a concerned citizen. The letter stated that the monument’s prominent inclusion of biblical scripture, combined with the high school’s logo, sent the message that the school district endorses religion, specifically Christianity, in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The sculpture, which was highly visible and incorporated into the pre-game activities of the school’s football team, included religious language and Christian biblical references, such as quotations from Romans 8:31 and Philippians 4:13.

Yesterday evening, the school board voted unanimously to remove or cover the biblical references on the sculpture, according to reports. However, not all attendees at the meeting were pleased with the decision. One individual was quoted by reporters as saying, “It seems as if these groups are here as haters…to remove God from [our society], which means they are the antichrist by definition.”

A copy of the letter sent by the Appignani Humanist Legal Center can be viewed here. The Freedom from Religion Foundation also sent a letter, which can be viewed here.


Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., the American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other non-religious Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming philosophy 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.