Humanists Threaten Lawsuit Over Sermon, Prayer Delivered at Mississippi Convocation

JacksonJACKSON, Miss. — A nationally-recognized humanist organization has threatened to sue a Mississippi school district after a pastor delivered a sermon and prayer at a convocation for teachers earlier this month.

The American Humanist Association’s (AHA) Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter to the superintendent of the Jackson Public School District on Monday stating that it had received a complaint from a teacher who attended the event. The organization claims that the convocation was mandatory.

Among the speakers at the convocation was Pastor Roy Maine, who also works as an electrician in the district. He had been invited to deliver the opening prayer, and included words of exhortation during his invocation.

“This is the time to stand for God,” Maine told those gathered, according to video footage of the event. “We get run over and run over, and we get up …We’re gonna keep getting up for God, amen?”

He also led attendees in the 23rd Psalm, which he asked those present to recite with him, and made other Scriptural references.

But AHA says that Maine was not their only concern.

“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.'” the letter, written by staff attorney Monica Miller, stated.

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AHA argued that the religious content of the convocation was a violation of the Constitution’s Establishment Clause in the First Amendment, which reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

“Given the clarity of the jurisprudence, it shocks the conscience that the school district included a prayer, by a Christian pastor, at a formal, and indeed mandatory, school-sponsored event,” Miller wrote.

She then ordered that the district bar the use of religious speech in future events under threat of a lawsuit.

“[T]he School District may be sued … for damages, an injunction and attorneys’ fees,” Miller asserted. “This letter serves as an official notice of the unconstitutional activity and demands that the school district terminate this and any similar illegal activity immediately. To avoid legal action, we kindly ask that you notify us in writing within two weeks of receipt of this letter setting forth the steps you will take to rectify this constitutional infringement.”

The school district issued a statement following receipt of the letter, but did not state its position one way or the other.

“The Jackson Public School District acknowledges receiving a letter from the Appignani Humanist Legal Center regarding events taking place during the 2014 Convocation ceremony. The JPS Legal Department is reviewing the letter and will respond appropriately as needed,” it wrote. “The annual Convocation program is a celebratory event intended to invigorate employees with enthusiasm, pride, and excitement for the beginning of a new school year.”

As previously reported, AHA has also threatened to sue a school district in Gainesville, Georgia after athletic coaches allegedly participated in or led prayers at Chestatee High School. Over 200 students and parents rallied in support of the coaches earlier this month during a pre-school prayer gathering on the field.

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  • Allen Cox

    This is an excellent example of how one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch. One or two may feel insulted and the hundreds that enjoyed will be punished. Also a good example of a BULLY ! A bully forcing many to restrain their beliefs because he or she was offended. I Pray for us all including the one who was offended.

    • Riddles

      Actually in this case the bullies were the ones pushing their beliefs on others just because they were in the majority and they expected anyone who didn’t share their beliefs to shut up and accept it.

      Think about how you make others feel for once, not just making yourself feel good.

  • Mister Bubble

    So what? Do we have to practice their religion like they do by ignoring God? The fact that our nation and their rights are based upon the God of the Bible should make them reconsider, because our rights can’t be based on movable boundaries – the whim of the ideas of humans.

    • Riddles

      They don’t have a religion but that doesn’t matter. You aren’t being made to practice someone elses beliefs, especially being not being able to push others to practice yours.

      Also America is not based on the god of the Bible, the first amendment is in stark contrast to the first commandment after all.

  • C.P. Steinmetz

    I pray for the future of our country, if the first two responses represent the views of the people.

    First, how is it ‘bullying’ to require that government entities stop offending the Constitution and the law of the land? As someone wrote about another article, it seems you are offended because you do not have ‘special’ rights, rather than ‘equal’ rights.

    Second, if “our nation and their rights are based upon the God of the Bible.” why is it that the “God of the Bible” is not mentioned at all in the Declaration of Independence, or especially, the Constitution? And, as the Treaty of Tripoli showed, the founding fathers felt that this country was not based upon Christianity.

  • Voteferpedro

    All this whining from people that can’t follow their own religious doctrine and pray in private, in their homes. Instead they try and show off their faith. This runs counter to the entire ethos of Christianity. Modesty seems lost on those who made the comments above. Celebrate your religion on the sabbath in holy places. Bring the love of it with you in your actions. It is not your job to judge or smite those who don’t believe. Last I checked, that was the Lord’s job.

    I never understood the need to lord over people with religion. Take some time to reflect and place yourselves in any minorities shoes. How you treat them is how you were treated when your religion was in the minority. More atheists and poly theists were fed to the lions than Christians. Many roman emperors were Christians and used their power to erase all other gods but Yaweh from the empire.

  • Lost Apostle

    “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6″But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 7″And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.…

  • Seth Childs

    Why is this such a problem? If you want to pray, do so in church. Or be willing to accept representatives from every system of faith and reason that would like to get up and speak.

  • Mark

    FYI please for each one of you who are either atheists and or believers go to your state search for your states preamble and notice how all the states have a constitutional preamble which begins with faith in GOD!! pretty neat huh?
    just “Google it” or whatever and you’ll see it
    all states have preamble with “GOD”

    Mayflower Compact, Magna Carta,

    John Eidsmoe christianity and the constitution
    A Worthy Company: Brief Lives of the Framers of the United States Constitution
    Bradford, M. E.

    need proof? be serious and be objective history archaeology and science prove it
    see the following

    • Lost Apostle

      Actually that is referred to as a “Invocationes dei”. It is just custom to include as many countries in medevil Europe would not do business with provinces that did not recognize god. This is because if they were not part of the HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE they would have to trade in other goods besides the common coin. It’s the same as the double speak such as “therefore” peppered in contracts. It also appears in legal charters and appeared in the Charter papers for the Dutch Indies Trading Company. Source: member of a law fraternity.

  • Jesse

    What does it matter? a person was offended Christ said the truth would offend the world… too bad for the aha the good news was already given. 🙂

  • Mark

    ha ha yeah the atheists say there is no GOD well, sorry but GOD’S preserved Words in the English language KJV my final authority in all matters states the following truths Psalm 14:1 and Psalm 53:1 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good. please repent and be ye saved dear atheist you really do know the truth but have seriously erred and chosen rebelliousness and denial because your sins are more dear to you as your own atheist writers attest to they care more about their sexual mores than having to be told rules for living from a thrice Holy GOD, paraphrasing
    Julian Huxley, known as Darwin’s bulldog, the one who made Darwinian evolutionism famous, was interviewed on television. He was asked why evolution was accepted so quickly. His answer: “The reason why we accepted Darwinism, even without proof, is because we didn’t want God to interfere with our sexual mores.”
    ok in the beginning something came nothing came from goo to you via the zoo ha ha
    so there you go we’ll just have to go and accept their so called wall of imagination separation or establishment clause but oh wait the real history is the Danbury Baptist or Danbury Baptist Association was afraid of having the state Church like in England as the rule and therefore wrote to Mr. Jefferson who said in a personal letter he believes to protect us from the state not in a so called wall of separation see the facts (The Danbury Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut sent a letter, dated October 7, 1801, to the newly elected President Thomas Jefferson) which is not the same meaning and or wording the anti Christs atheists socialists communists liberals new world order Christ haters of today are giving to it but, we the people who are Christians and Jews or the Judeo Christian of this country’s founding beliefs system, are free and need to be bold and stand up against them and their corrupt lawyers and politicians scare tactics which is exactly what the communists atheists and socialists new world order people are doing now and telling us the believers we cannot pray openly and wherever we so choose which is our absolute GOD given right and USA given right to boot!! dear haters and atheists before it’s too late time is short please get saved get born again and choose life at

    need proof? be serious and be objective history archaeology and science prove it
    see the following