After Religious Convocation in Mississippi School District, Officials Promise a Secular Ceremony Next Year

A few days ago, I wrote about how the Jackson Public School District in Mississippi had held a mandatory, three-hour-long convocation for all faculty members that included plenty of nods to Jesus.

You would have never guessed it looking at the properly bland event description on the district’s website:

The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center explained what happened:

Reverend Roy Maine was invited by the School District to deliver the opening prayer.

The Reverend began his sermon by asking the entire faculty to “shut your eyes please” and pray. Following that was a series of “call and responses” where he would ask the teachers, “please say amen to that,” to which they would respond, “amen!” The Reverend said that the reason they were all there was to “to see just what God’s going to do this [school] year.”

The religious proselytization did not end with the Reverend’s sermon. Nearly every speaker at this three-hour event engaged in some form of religious preaching, recitation of Bible verses, and invocation to “Lord” and “God.” The event was best described by our client as “one long church service.”

It wasn’t the first time he had done this. Maine spoke at last year’s convocation, too.

Thankfully, the letter seems to have worked. The AHA announced today that the school district has promised to halt the Christian prayers at future events.

the District will ask its convocation speakers to refrain from religious activity. Additionally, the convocation committee will follow federal and state law with regards to religious activity when planning future convocations.

The AHA is pleased with the response:

“We’re very pleased that the school district has promptly responded to this issue and has made assurances that future school-sponsored assemblies will comply with the Establishment Clause,” said Monica Miller, an attorney with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.

“By upholding the separation of church and state, the school district is respecting the rights of teachers of minority faiths, as well as the rights of teachers who do not profess any faith,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association.

The only way to verify if the District upholds its promise is to keep tabs on it next year — if the AHA’s informant works in the District, which is likely the case, that shouldn’t be too hard at all.

Time to sit back and wait for conservative leaders to complain about how, somehow, the AHA just took away Christians’ right to impose their religion on everyone else.

(Portions of this article were posted earlier)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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