AHA Calls Out Another GA School Violating the First Amendment

A new school year has begun and we’ve already seen numerous cases of schools rather blatantly violating the Constitution, from forcing kids to say the Pledge of Allegiance to handing out fliers for churches to, now, a Georgia school with a monument mixing the school logo with Bible verses. The American Humanist Association is challenging that monument.

Today the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter to officials at the Madison County School District in Danielsville, Georgia, on behalf of a concerned citizen about a monument on school district property.

According to the letter, the monument’s prominent inclusion of biblical scripture, combined with the high school’s logo, send the message that the school district endorses religion, specifically Christianity, in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The monument, a large permanent sculpture entitled “Red Raider,” is located in the Madison High School football stadium and was unveiled this school year. The sculpture includes religious language and Christian biblical references, such as quotations from Romans 8:31 and Philippians 4:13. The monument also features the Madison High School logo, and the high school football team customarily touches the sculpture before home games.

“Numerous cases make clear that public schools are prohibited from taking a position, or even appearing to take a position, on religious belief,” said Monica Miller, an attorney with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “Erecting a monument on school property that includes Christian scripture sends the unequivocal message to school children that the school is endorsing religion.”

“Promoting one religious perspective over all others is discriminatory toward students of religious minorities and toward humanist and atheist students,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association.

Here’s the full letter, which includes several pictures of the monument. The problem, of course, is finding a plaintiff in that town to take a stand at great risk to themselves.

Madison Monument Letter 9-25-14 Final-1

POPULAR AT PATHEOS Nonreligious
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • dhall

    Considering that school officials and teachers and coaches are getting called out for this kind of crap all over the country, and that those instances have been in the news, is there some reason why those in charge of other schools think they will somehow remain immune to the same sort of criticism, reminders and warnings of litigation? What makes them think that they can get away with it, considering the publicity other such infringements have gotten? Or is it something like the criminal mentality in which the criminal thinks he or she is so freaking special that only the other ones get caught? Just how deluded, stupid or ignorant of the law are these people??

  • dhall

    And how much tax payer or federal money went into that monument?

  • whheydt

    Re: dhall @ #1…

    I wouldn’t rule out the school & district authorities believing that no one will object and/or believing that anyone challenging them will be unable to find someone with standing to do so. It rather goes to the heart of Ed’s issues about the various courts standing rules.

  • eric

    is there some reason why those in charge of other schools think they will somehow remain immune to the same sort of criticism, reminders and warnings of litigation? What makes them think that they can get away with it…

    I think the sad fact is, they think they can get away with it because most of the time they do get away with it. What makes it to the news articles and the courts is just a small subset of what goes on: the violations that the various legal groups become aware of, choose to fight, and can get plaintiffs for.

    Also note that these things are rarely one-off or first-time events. Getting caught probably signals that this is a continuation of a behovior, or maybe an escalation of a lesser religious behavior because nobody complained about the earlier, lesser stuff. If (making up an example) some principal is discovered sending religiously themed emails, it’s probably because in past years they did some other religious speech and nobody successfully complained about it.

    To draw an analogy, it is rarely the case that you speed one time in your entire life and get a ticket for it. If you get a speeding ticket, it probably means you speed regularly and just finally got caught doing it, or it means the cop doesn’t stop you doing 10mph over the limit so you recently started doing 15 mph over the limit.

  • illdoittomorrow

    dhall, @ 1 & 2,

    Besides what eric and whheydt said, there’s an element of persecution fantasy. A school administration may see First Amendment challenges going on around the country and believe they’re the one to stand up for the Lawd against evil. If they succeed (or meet no resistance- see above), then hallelujah, right? If not, then obviously they’re being persecuted, and should continue to show everyone what brave heroes they are.

    Shorter me: there is only one response to all stimuli.

  • marcozandrini

    dhall #1: dey ain’t got no internet.

  • John Pieret

    How crushingly ironic is it that the school is named after James Madison, who opposed any involvement of government in religion and vice versa.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    “Red Raider”? The vibrator? What are the biblical passages from, Song of Solomon?

  • Michael Heath

    dhall asks:

    is there some reason why those in charge of other schools think they will somehow remain immune to the same sort of criticism, reminders and warnings of litigation? What makes them think that they can get away with it, considering the publicity other such infringements have gotten?

    I see a factors in play.

    First is epistemic closure. Conservative Christians are both determinedly ignorant to facts inconvenient to their faith and the way they wish things would be. They must be in order to remain conservative Christians. So many will be determinedly ignorant regarding how the government should deal with religious matters. Plus we now have conservative viral emails going around that misinform conservative Christians regarding church-state laws.

    Secondly, when confronted with misdeeds such as this, their holy dogma seems to require them to stand-up for Jesus. Of course the Bible also has contradictions to this edict that require them to submit to the government. But the Bible story of Peter denying Jesus three times the evening the Romans arrested Jesus is a story that’s promoted far more than the passages demanding Christians submit to the government. In other passages Jesus asserts that those deny him in this life will cause Jesus to deny them on the day of Judgement (so eternal hellfire for defending our freedoms).

    Lastly, for these government officials who break the law, there’s also not much downside to losing such cases. They have immunity from damages while be provided a public opportunity to demonstrate their willingness to stand up for Jesus. As long as the majority agrees in these localities, these administrators getting fired for defending Christianism seems unlikely.

  • eric

    when confronted with misdeeds such as this, their holy dogma seems to require them to stand-up for Jesus. Of course the Bible also has contradictions to this edict that require them to submit to the government. But the Bible story of Peter denying Jesus three times the evening the Romans arrested Jesus is a story that’s promoted far more than the passages demanding Christians submit to the government.

    Maybe that makes internal sense to them, but to me it looks like they’re behaving the opposite from the way you describe. Claims that they are defending some ten commandments monument or plaque for it’s historical value is a denial. Claims that an opening prayer is purely ceremonial or is patriotic rather than religious is a denial. Claims that ID is science and not religion is a denial. And so on, and so on. They are copying Peter, not trying to avoid his sin.

    If they were in non-denial mode, the things they would say in court would be “yes, your honor, this ten commandments monument is a testament to our God.” “Yes, your honor, we open our meetings with prayer because we feel its important to thank our God before we start.” “Yes, your honor, we are doing this because we think God and prayer need to be brought back into public schools.” Et cetera. All they do is deny the religious reasons for their actions.

    Agree fully with your third factor.

  • dhall

    You made some really good points, all of you–thanks. I doubt if the fools themselves could ever articulate it so well, however.

  • eamick

    And the first student to draw the sword from the stone will rule Madison County?

  • John Pieret

    From a Faux News story:

    http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/09/28/georgia-high-schools-statue-ignites-ire-atheist-groups/

    “I think everybody ought to just leave it alone and let God run this Earth like he does,” Johnny Kinley told MyFoxAtlanta.com.

    If I had known that God paid for the monument and had it erected, that would have changed everything!

  • tsig

    It’s nice to be a martyr when you can just send the taxpayers to the lions.

  • markr1957

    How did we ever allow elected officials to make laws giving themselves immunity from breaking the law? This is a matter that cries out for a referendum, because now they have immunity no elected official is ever going to vote to change this little get-out-of-jail-on-the-taxpayers’-dime scam. At a minimum elected officials must be held accountable for willful violations of the Constitution.