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Attorneys for Hall County Schools respond to prayer lawsuit
Humanist group filed case against Chestatee High principal over religious expression
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Attorneys for Hall County Schools and others named in a U.S. District Court lawsuit filed an answer Friday related to religion in schools.

Attorneys Phillip Hartley and Hieu Nguyen entered an answer on behalf of the school district, Superintendent Will Schofield and Chestatee High School Principal Suzanne Jarrard.

The American Humanist Association and three anonymous individuals filed its amended complaint Dec. 17 on what it believes is a violation of the First Amendment’s establishment clause. That refers to the amendment’s wording, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion ...”

“Plaintiffs were not deprived of any federal, constitutional or statutory right as a result of the application of any policy, practice or custom of the Defendant Hall County School District,” the answer reads.

The response denies any “promotion of religion,” as well as the claim that “the Superintendent can or must ‘insure’ compliance with any laws.”

All three anonymous plaintiffs — Jane Doe, Jane Roe and Jane Coe — live within the school district and are members of Humanist organization, according to court records.

The controversy began in August when the AHA raised concerns about Chestatee coaches allegedly leading and participating in prayer.

The complaint filed by the group mentions dozens of alleged instances connecting Hall County schools with expressions of Christian faith. Many instances relate to pictures and messages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram involving religious material.

“All praise to God for helping my team this season to claim a spot in the Elite Eight,” is a tweet mentioned in the lawsuit retweeted by West Hall High School.

The lawsuit also alleges a former Chestatee wrestling coach telling players “Jesus was a wrestler” and quoting Scripture.

“On information and belief, Defendants currently understand that the statement was made by the coach as alleged during a motivational talk,” the answer reads.

The relief sought by the plaintiffs includes a declaratory judgment of a violation of the First Amendment, a permanent injunction against prayer or religious speeches at school-sponsored events and attorney’s fees.

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