Fourth Circuit Vacates South Carolina Court Ruling on Prayers at Graduation Ceremonies

American Humanist Association's picture

For Immediate Release


Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105,

Monica Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 120,

(Richmond, Va., June 21, 2016)—The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling on a lawsuit filed by the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center challenging the Greenville County School District in Taylors, SC, for including prayers in its graduation ceremonies, as well as hosting some of those ceremonies in a Christian chapel.

In its ruling, the Fourth Circuit vacated the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina’s ruling upholding graduation prayers. The Fourth Circuit sent the case back to the court to determine the American Humanist Association members’ standing to stop future graduation prayers and to determine the constitutionality of holding public school events in religious venues.

We are pleased that the Fourth Circuit is allowing our clients to vindicate their constitutional rights, and we will continue to defend them from government-sponsored religion and coerced participation in religious activity,” said Monica Miller, senior counsel at the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.

“The Fourth Circuit is giving the lower court the opportunity to uphold the Establishment Clause,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “Non-Christians students and families who want their public schools to remain neutral on religion deserve to have their day in court.” 

The American Humanist Association appealed its lawsuit against the Greenville County School District in July 2015 after the district court upheld the school district’s current prayer practice at graduations and also found that the local family lacked standing to seek nominal damages for the district’s practice of hosting graduations in a Christian chapel. The Fourth Circuit heard oral arguments in May 2015.

A copy of the appeal can be viewed here, and the American Humanist Association’s lawsuit originally filed in September 2013 can be viewed here.


Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., the American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other nontheistic Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming philosophy of humanism, which—without beliefs in any gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.

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