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California-based Monica Miller JD’12 fights for the separation of church and state. As legal director and senior counsel for the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center and executive director of the Humanist Legal Society, Miller’s work is often around issues that arise in public schools. When a letter isn’t enough, Miller has filed lawsuits in federal court. She won a case against a South Carolina public elementary school for holding end-of-year ceremonies in a Christian chapel and a case against a Mississippi high school for inviting a minister to deliver prayers at graduation ceremonies.
Miller has also prevailed in many First Amendment lawsuits against other government entities, such as state governments that claim to have a public forum for a legislative prayer practice that allows community members to deliver opening remarks. In these instances, Miller has called upon the Satanists for support. One of her clients delivered a Satanic prayer at a Florida city council meeting. “This Satanic prayer gave Christians a mere taste of what it feels like to be Muslim, atheist, or Jewish at these city meetings that regularly open with Christian prayer.”
And in 2014, Miller’s work took her all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The association and several residents of Maryland’s Prince George County sued to remove a 40-foot cross-shaped war memorial sitting on state property. The cross was built as a tribute to WWI soldiers and the state has spent more than $100,000 on maintaining it. Challengers saw it as an unconstitutional endorsement of a particular religion.
In a fractured decision, the Supreme Court allowed the cross to remain. “Religion is being thrown around as a sword,” Miller said. “It’s making people wake up. I actually find more people who are religious coming to us reporting—people who are Christian—speaking out against Christian favoritism.”