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Nonreligious Assert Religious Freedom in Invocations at PA House of Representatives

March 1, 2019

For Immediate Release

 

Contact:

Sarah Henry, (202) 238-9088, shenry@americanhumanist.org

 

(Washington D.C., March 1, 2019) – Attorneys at the American Humanist Association (AHA) have just filed an amicus, or friend-of-the-court, brief at the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in support of a lower court ruling that the Pennsylvania House of Representatives’ practice of barring nonreligious from offering invocations is discriminatory and unconstitutional.

 

“When legislative bodies open meetings with invocations, all members of the community must be included,” notes Monica Miller, American Humanist Association Senior Counsel. “Pennsylvania’s exclusionary practices are in clear violation of Supreme Court precedent and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”

 

The PA House of Representatives has long allowed guests from the community to lead opening invocations at the statehouse. Since 2014, nonreligious local residents have repeatedly requested to take part in this tradition. Every request has been denied.

 

“Both religious and nonreligious people are equally capable of delivering empowering and inspiring invocations,” explains AHA Executive Director, Roy Speckhardt. “The prayer traditions in Pennsylvania advance religion over non-religion, and exclude the more than 20% of Pennsylvania residents who are nonreligious.”

 

The American Humanist Association is supporting Americans United for Separation of Church and State and their earlier victory in this case, Fields vs. Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. The plaintiffs in the case include Pennsylvania Nonbelievers, its president Brian Fields, and member Joshua Neiderhiser; Dillsburg Area Freethinkers, its chief organizer Paul Tucker, and member Deana Weaver; Lancaster Freethought Society and its president Scott Rhoades; Philadelphia Ethical Society, and its leader emeritus Richard Kiniry; and Rev. Dr. Neal R. Jones of Main Line Unitarian Church.

 

Read today’s brief here.

 

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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 worldview of humanism, which—without beliefs in 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 and the Herb Block Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.

 

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