AoF acts to eliminate invocation at graduation ceremony

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AoF acts to eliminate invocation at graduation ceremony

Postby Rob Curry on May 21st, 2010, 11:06 am

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, May 21, 2010

Atheists act to eliminate invocation at graduation ceremony

TAMPA, Fla.– Acting swiftly on a parent’s concern about prayers that were to be included in her son’s high school graduation ceremony, Atheists of Florida successfully negotiated with Hillsborough County school officials to compel them to comply with laws prohibiting such religious rituals at school events.

On Wednesday, May 19, the parent contacted the atheist organization when she learned that Alonso High School principle, Louis Diaz, would disregard her appeal to remove the invocation from the graduation program. Following discussions the next day between Atheists of Florida attorney and school officials, Mr. Diaz reversed his position. Though printed materials that included the word “invocation” had already been printed and delivered, he assured the group’s attorney that there would not be any religious message and that a non-religious poem would be read instead.

Upon learning of the change, the parent, who wishes to remain unidentified, stated, “I am appreciative that the school was considerate of our family’s concerns and we are now looking forward to our son’s upcoming graduation ceremony.” John Kieffer, the group’s president commented, “This is what we do: Atheists of Florida is there to safeguard the rights of Florida’s atheists, such as the family in this case. Moreover, I commend Mr. Diaz and school officials for acting promptly and professionally to acknowledge the civil rights of our community.”

The Alonso High School graduation event is scheduled to be held at the University of South Florida “Sundome” facility at 3pm, June 3, 2010.

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About Atheists of Florida

Atheists of Florida is headquartered in Tampa, representing members both locally and around the state. Founded in 1992 as a nonprofit civil rights and educational group, Atheists of Florida was created to heighten public awareness about atheism and to monitor state/church separation issues. The organization is also a founding member society of the Atheist Alliance International.

Local chapters in Tampa, St Petersburg, Largo and Lakeland belong to the Tampa Bay Coalition of Reason, collaborating with eight other atheist, Humanist or freethought groups.

Atheists of Florida serves the needs of a growing nonreligious community of reason that disagrees with supernatural doctrines while valuing personal liberty as a precious heritage for everyone. Recent national surveys show that 16% of the American population is nonreligious, an increase from 14% two years prior.

The objectives pursued by Atheists of Florida include: (a) advocating state/church separation, (b) defending the civil rights of atheists and others with minority views on religion, (c) educating the public to dispel common misconceptions about atheism, (d) offering social support for atheists, (e) encouraging an inclusive sense of community, inspiration, mutual understanding and respect, and (f) promoting the virtues of freedom, honesty and integrity.


Contact:
John Kieffer
President, Atheists of Florida
Info@AtheistsofFlorida.net
813-919-9161
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Re: Atheists act to eliminate invocation at graduation ceremony

Postby JoseyWales on May 21st, 2010, 12:36 pm

Kudos to John Kieffer for his and Atheists of Florida's success at compelling enforcement of the law.
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Re: Atheists act to eliminate invocation at graduation ceremony

Postby Rob Curry on May 22nd, 2010, 11:16 am

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Re: Atheists act to eliminate invocation at graduation ceremony

Postby Charlie on May 23rd, 2010, 9:06 pm

And I will be amazed if someone does not try to slip some religious content into the ceremony.
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Re: Atheists act to eliminate invocation at graduation ceremony

Postby Thalia Thinks on May 27th, 2010, 4:33 pm

Wow! That is amazing.

I just moved from South Georgia and my daughter just graduated. I was shocked and pissed when they started praying. I sat down while most around me were standing.

I would have never won, nor had help, if I had known about it in advanced and wanted to fight it.
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Re: Atheists act to eliminate invocation at graduation ceremony

Postby Jenth101 on June 7th, 2010, 8:21 pm

There was a prayer at Kathleen Senior High's graduation today. :evil:
I don't suppose that the creationists really plan the decline of the United States, but their loudly expressed patriotism is as simpleminded as their "science." Isaac Asimov
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Re: Atheists act to eliminate invocation at graduation ceremony

Postby Rob Curry on June 7th, 2010, 9:14 pm

Many people just expect that prayer will not be seen as offensive or pointless by anyone. We have many educational opportunities ahead of us, and i look forward to pursuing the all vigorously.

There was also a very brief prayer at my grandfather's funeral service today. Rather strange, as he was an atheist. But then he wasn't exactly around to object. My mother took the time later to make sure that I knew she wanted no such nonsense at her funeral (which may be a long way off considering that in our family, the meaner you are, the longer you live). She prefers to have a reading of the poem "Invictus."

At any rate, the 18 gun salute was rather loud. He was a WWII veteran, serving in Patton's 3rd Army.
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Re: Atheists act to eliminate invocation at graduation ceremony

Postby Charlie on June 7th, 2010, 10:04 pm

Rob Curry wrote:
At any rate, the 18 gun salute was rather loud. He was a WWII veteran, serving in Patton's 3rd Army.

Perhaps he knew Obama's grandfather. Did he ever mention that ?
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It has long bothered me that so many veteran's chose to keep silent about the things they experienfcded until it became almost too late and unfortunately memories became dim. I remember some of my uncles telling some stories, but it seemed to me that they held back too much.
.
Add my name to the friends who share your sorrow at losing someone who must have been very important to you.
.
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Re: Atheists act to eliminate invocation at graduation ceremony

Postby Benjamin Geiger on June 9th, 2010, 9:16 am

Rob Curry wrote:... in our family, the meaner you are, the longer you live...


And you're not dead yet?
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Re: Atheists act to eliminate invocation at graduation ceremony

Postby EB Wachs on June 10th, 2010, 7:00 pm

On Wednesday, May 19, the parent contacted the atheist organization


Just a little factual correction here. The parent actually did not contact the atheist organization. The parent contacted me personally on facebook and asked me for my help. I assessed the situation and then took it to John and our outside attorney.

EllenBeth

***** ****** May 18 at 7:11pm
EllenBeth:
I need your help. I am at my son's awards ceremony and an invocation is on the program. Again. I approached the principal and he said, this isn't the time. He knows, but it is not to one specific god and it's said by a student. Still against the law, I said. I am going to record it on my phone if I can.

I asked if it would be done at graduation, he said yes, but...I said, no, it won't. You will hear from me. The graduation is 6/3.

What can I do?


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Re: Atheists act to eliminate invocation at graduation ceremony

Postby Holly on July 13th, 2010, 4:05 pm

Out of curiosity, if a high school graduation ceremony is held at a church, is that considered a violation of church and state? The high school my husband teaches at holds their graduation every year at a local church. There are plenty of other venues close by that would be large enough to hold the event, but they still do it at a local church. I haven't attended a graduation there so I'm not sure if there is a prayer involved.
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Re: Atheists act to eliminate invocation at graduation ceremony

Postby John Kieffer on July 13th, 2010, 5:11 pm

Holly wrote:Out of curiosity, if a high school graduation ceremony is held at a church, is that considered a violation of church and state? The high school my husband teaches at holds their graduation every year at a local church. There are plenty of other venues close by that would be large enough to hold the event, but they still do it at a local church. I haven't attended a graduation there so I'm not sure if there is a prayer involved.


Hello Holly,

Well I for one would be highly concerned if that was the practice at my own child's high school and would be acting deligently to change that venue to a secular site.

Question: Is the issue occurring at a Florida public school? If so, then I suggest that you email EllenBeth Wachs, Esq., our Legal Affairs Coordinator for Atheists of Florida; give her the details and contact info and she'll look into it. Her email: EBWachs@AtheistsofFlorida.org

John Kieffer
President, Atheists of Florida


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Re: Atheists act to eliminate invocation at graduation ceremony

Postby Holly on July 13th, 2010, 7:56 pm

Thanks John, I will do that. As long as there is no mention to the school as to who I am. Every year my husband goes through the same fear of if he'll have a job or not because of budget cuts and I don't want to give them ammunition to cut his position.
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