Even if there is a God that blesses America, he cannot be called upon to do so over Yulee High School’s public address system, said a national atheist group that threatened to sue the school over its morning announcement sign-off.
For the last couple of weeks, one of the school students, responsible for the morning announcement, ended his reading with the phrase ‘God Bless America.’ This clearly did not go down well with two atheist students, who instead of taking up the matter with Yulee High School’s principal Natasha Drake, decided to seek help from the Washington-based American Humanist Association. AHA then sent a warning letter to Drake and Nassau County Schools superintendent John Ruis.
“We have been informed that religious messages (have been) delivered over the PA system at Yulee High School every morning for the past few weeks,” read the letter by the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, the legal arm of the AHA.
According to AHA’s letter, the students’ statement clarified Yulee High School’s daily practice of announcing “God Bless America” over the public address system, was in fact a constitutional violation. The group also warned that the school should stop this practice immediately, as it was inappropriate for the contentious phrase to be read out over the public address system.
“Every day these students must witness the State, through its public schools, define patriotism in a way that portrays God belief as consistent with ideal patriotism and disbelief as something less. Indeed, the daily validation of the religious views of God-believers resigns atheists to second-class citizens. Because attendance is mandatory, the students have no way of avoiding this daily message either,” the letter read.
Sheryl Wood, spokesperson for Drake and Nassau County Schools, replied in a letter the following day that the student responsible for the morning announcement had added the contentious phrase on his own accord, as “God Bless America” was not part of the school’s regular script. She also clarified that the student had been instructed to stick to the regular script in the future.
“Students at Yulee High are free to express their beliefs all day long, but not during the school announcement. This student deviated from the script and has been instructed (not to) deviate from the script; he is a good student and he meant no harm,” Wood said.
Photo Credits: AP Graphic