A Florida student concluded the Yulee High School morning announcements with “God bless America,” which lead to disciplinary action from his school. Two students who claim to be atheists took offense to the ending phrase, which the Nassau County School District says deviated from the approved script.
“It wasn’t part of the scripted morning announcements,” said Sharyl Wood, a district spokesperson. “The principal took the appropriate steps in speaking with the student and disciplining the student.”
The offended parties contacted the American Humanist Society, who sent a letter to the school from their legal team.
“It is inappropriate and unlawful for a public school to start the school day off with an official statement over the intercom stating, ‘God Bless America,’ for such a statement affirms God-belief, validates a theistic worldview and is invidious toward atheists and other nonbelievers,” the letter from AHA stated.
They continued that by ending the announcement with that phrase, the student was in violation of the constitution and broke the law because he publicly cited the name of God to the entire school. The letter also included the threat of a lawsuit.
“The daily validation of the religious views of God-believers resigns atheists to second-class citizens,” the letter stated. “Because attendance is mandatory, the students have no way of avoiding this daily message, either.”
Yulee High School’s principal, Natasha Drake, responded with a letter of apology.
“Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention. I want to point out that the statement, “God bless America, keep us safe,” that was made last week on the morning announcements was not approved by school Administration, nor was it in the scripted announcements.”
Drake assured the AHA that the student receiver proper punishment for his actions, “I have called the student in this morning and directed him that at no time is he to add or take away from announcements that have been pre-approved and that if he did it again, he would no longer have the privilege of making the morning announcements.”
Jeremy Dys, an attorney at Liberty Institute, argued, “Whether a student is being patriotic or engaging in religious speech, there is no law in this country forbidding a student from telling his or her classmates, ‘God bless America’ and it is illegal for a school to censor a student for doing so.”