A U.S. District Judge granted the American Humanist Association’s motion Tuesday to allow the three plaintiffs in the Chestatee High School prayer case to stay anonymous.
Three people in the Hall County School District filed suit against the school district, its Superintendent Will Schofield and Chestatee Principal Suzanne Jarrard on Dec. 1.
The humanist association sent a letter on Aug. 12 claiming that prayers and other religious activities at Chestatee violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution’s First Amendment.
The school district has denied these allegations.
In the order signed by Senior U.S. District Judge William O’Kelley, challenging government activity on religious matters represent two factors in support of anonymity.
In addition, O’Kelley ruled that while a threat of hostile public reaction doesn’t usually warrant anonymity, “hostility expressed through threats of violence weigh in favor of allowing plaintiffs to proceed anonymously.”
The humanist association’s attorneys claimed in December court filings that they were “flooded with hate mail and threats” after the Aug. 12 letter was sent. One was serious enough to be reported to police, though the agency is unspecified in court documents.
An attorney received a Facebook message stating, “You are a demon straight from the pit of hell” in all capitalized letters, according to court documents.
Another attorney “received a voice message from a person threatening
to ‘secretly inject’ the attorney with ‘HIV’” if the humanist association filed suit, according to court documents.
“The court recognizes that threats against the AHA are not threats against the anonymous plaintiffs,” according to the order. “But the identity of anonymous plaintiffs remains unknown to defendants and the general community.”
The school district did not oppose the motion for anonymity.