Freedom from Religion Found., Inc. v. Emanuel Cnty. Sch. Sys.

109 F. Supp. 3d 1353



The gravity of the danger posed by revealing plaintiffs' identities need not be as great where children are at risk. So, even where the evidence of retaliatory violence is not particularly strong, the balance can tip in favor of anonymity in a case involving child litigants seeking to prevent the state from intruding into a matter of the "utmost intimacy."


Plaintiff and two of its members sued then defendant and individual administrators, alleging that the defendants had violated the plaintiffs' civil rights and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by endorsing prayer in a public-school classroom. Additionally, plaintiffs filed declarations that their children had been bullied and singled out for not participating in the classroom prayer. Additionally, the declarations stated that the defendant-teachers had pressured the children to ignore the wishes of their parents and join in classroom prayer. When the children refused, the teachers ostracized the children. Given this conduct by the defendants, the plaintiffs argued that they needed to remain anonymous or else suffer broader harm from the community.


Whether the plaintiffs should be allowed to proceed through litigation under pseudonyms.




In granting the plaintiffs' motion, the Court held that this case involves the "special status and vulnerability of child-litigants, the showing of possible threatened harm and serious social ostracization" based on the plaintiffs' religious beliefs. After balancing the interests of the parties, the Court found that the normal right to full transparency should yield to plaintiffs' demonstrated need to litigate the private matter without disclosing their identities.

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