Plaintiffs Granted Anonymity in Florida Church/State Case

Plaintiffs Granted Anonymity in Florida Church/State Case June 24, 2015

Here’s some good news. The plaintiffs in an Establishment Clause lawsuit in Florida involving school prayer have been granted the right to remain anonymous by the judge in the case. And in this case, the school rightly did not contest the motion for anonymity.

In the order signed by Senior U.S. District Judge William O’Kelley, challenging government activity on religious matters represent two factors in support of anonymity.

In addition, O’Kelley ruled that while a threat of hostile public reaction doesn’t usually warrant anonymity, “hostility expressed through threats of violence weigh in favor of allowing plaintiffs to proceed anonymously.”

The humanist association’s attorneys claimed in December court filings that they were “flooded with hate mail and threats” after the Aug. 12 letter was sent. One was serious enough to be reported to police, though the agency is unspecified in court documents.

An attorney received a Facebook message stating, “You are a demon straight from the pit of hell” in all capitalized letters, according to court documents.

Another attorney “received a voice message from a person threatening

to ‘secretly inject’ the attorney with ‘HIV’” if the humanist association filed suit, according to court documents.

“The court recognizes that threats against the AHA are not threats against the anonymous plaintiffs,” according to the order. “But the identity of anonymous plaintiffs remains unknown to defendants and the general community.”

It’s very unusual for the defendants in such a case to not argue against anonymity, mostly because they know that if the plaintiffs are identified they are almost certainly going to be the target of threats and maybe much worse and that this makes it more likely that they’ll drop the case due to the intimidation.

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