PIERRE, S.D. – Attorney General Marty Jackley announced today that South Dakota has joined 12 other State Attorneys General and the Governors of Kentucky and Mississippi in an amicus or “friend of the court” urging the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold the religious freedom of students in the Birdville Independent School District (BISD).
“The framers of our South Dakota Constitution opened their sessions with a prayer in 1883, and our highest court has held that this practice may continue with our legislature and other governmental bodies,” said Jackley. “The student expressions permitted by school board policy are the private speech of the student and prohibiting the students from presenting an invocation of their choice would be a violation of the students’ First Amendment Rights.”
American Humanist Association is challenging the BISD policy allowing volunteer student speakers to express a message of his or her own choosing at the start of school board meetings. BISD established a policy in March 2015, which allows students to sign up for a random drawing to determined who will speak at the opening of the meeting. The students are responsible for the message and the content, some include religious message in their remarks.