ACLU Apologizes To American Humanist Association

Document Date: April 1, 2010
Affiliate: ACLU of Mississippi

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Mississippi represent Constance McMillen in her lawsuit against the Itawamba County School District charging that the school violated McMillen’s constitutional rights by barring her from attending her high school prom with her girlfriend. Following an initial demand letter from the ACLU calling for the school district to reverse its decision, the school canceled the prom, prompting the lawsuit.

The ACLU of Mississippi serves as the fiscal sponsor of the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition (MSSC), which is organizing an alternative prom. MSSC is a coalition of Mississippi youth dedicated to ending homophobia, transphobia, sexism and all forms of discrimination, and fostering acceptance of students regardless of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity through public education and advocacy. As fiscal sponsor, the ACLU of Mississippi is processing online donations for MSSC for the Second Chance prom and for MSSC’s ongoing work. The ACLU of Mississippi sometimes receives donation offers that are associated with sponsorship requests. In those cases, the ACLU of Mississippi passes along the offers to the advisory board of MSSC which makes the final decision about whether or not to accept those donations and sponsorship offers.

A staff person at the ACLU of Mississippi made an error in judgment in sending an e-mail to the American Humanist Association expressing concerns about accepting its donation and sponsorship offer. To our understanding, MSSC has not made a decision regarding the acceptance of this funding and sponsorship offer. The decision is up to MSSC. The American Humanist Association has been made aware of the error, and the ACLU of Mississippi has expressed its apologies to the association for that error and the sentiments expressed in the e-mail.

The sentiments expressed by the ACLU of Mississippi staff person in the referenced e-mail do not reflect the views of the ACLU of Mississippi or the National ACLU in any way. The ACLU remains a stalwart defender of freedom of belief and expression for all.

The following is the apology written by ACLU of Mississippi Executive Director Nsombi Lambright to Roy Speckhardt, Executive Director of the American Humanist Association and sent to Mr. Speckhardt on March 31, 2010 at 5:24pm:

Dear Roy,

On behalf of the ACLU of Mississippi, I would like to offer our sincere apologies for the inappropriate e-mail you received from a member of our staff regarding your generous offer to sponsor and donate to a prom for Constance McMillen.

As I believe you’ve heard from the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition, MSSC makes the final decision about which sponsorship related offers to accept. It was an error for our staff member to insinuate to you that our organization had that decision-making power.

Furthermore, please understand that the sentiments expressed in the e-mail you received from our staff member do not reflect the views of our organization in any way. The ACLU of Mississippi is a stalwart defender of freedom of belief and expression for all, and we are appreciative of your commitment to protecting those principles, as well.

Nsombi Lambright
Executive Director, ACLU of Mississippi

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