Establishment Clause Win in Mississippi

Remember those school assemblies in Mississippi that were specifically intended to tell the high school students to accept Jesus into their othwise shallow and meaningless lives? I wrote about the situation when those assemblies happened last spring.

In an agreed judgment entered of record Friday, the Rankin County School District administrators admitted that the students’ constitutional rights were violated when they were required to attend a religious assembly and denied permission to leave once they figured out what it was.

Over the summer, the school developed a new policy for addressing religion in the Rankin County public schools.

The agreed judgment includes an admission of liability by the school district that it violated the Establishment Clause, the provision of the Constitution that requires separation of church and state. It also requires the school district to comply with a new policy that prohibits future such violations and orders the defendants to pay the plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees.

Before filing suit, a letter was sent asking school officials to stop the practice, where a student representative of the Pinelake Baptist Church spoke of finding “hope” in “Jesus Christ,” but the assemblies continued with school administrators insisting the assemblies were “student-led and organized.” According to students present, however, those who attempted to leave were prevented from doing so. At the end of the presentation, the speakers led the students in a Christian prayer. Videos captured by students can be found here and here.

A copy of the complaint filed in the suit can be found here.

The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Legal Center represented the student who filed suit.

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Got a legal question? Email me at anne@aramink.com. I’m a lawyer, but there’s only a 2% chance I’m licensed in your state. Whether I answer your question or not, sending me an email or reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship between us. I’m on Twitter as @aramink, and you can see my regular blog at www.aramink.com.

About Anne

Writer. Voracious reader. Lawyer. Jack’s mom. Irreverent. Coffee drinker. Cat owner. Grudging dog owner. Chief cook and bottle washer. Over-educated. Irish-Italian. Irreligious. History buff. Paleontology freak. Science fiction fan. Political junkie. Part-time avenging angel. Tea lover. Music nut. Tale spinner. Movie addict. Opinionated. Wordy.

Got a legal question related to religion? Contact me at anne@aramink.com


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