Christians’ Rights in Public Education

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Transcript Christians’ Rights in Public Education

Christian Rights in Public Education

EDUC 741 – Summer, 2008 – Dr. Schneider Group 2 – Nathan Buhl, Cory Dickerson, Brianne Kilbourne, & Theresa Roberts

First Amendment Rights

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion , or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech , or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble , and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

First Amendment Rights

• Although some legal barriers exist, teachers and students do have opportunities to express their Christian beliefs . • "First Amendment rights, applied in light of the special characteristics of the school environment, are available to teachers and students. It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate .“ —Justice Abe Fortas

Regarding religion, the 1 st Amendment was intended to accomplish three purposes:

• Intended to prevent the establishment of a national church or religion , or the giving of any religious sect or denomination a preferred status • Designed to safeguard the right of freedom of conscience in religious beliefs against invasion solely by the national Government • Constructed in order to allow the States , unimpeded, to deal with religious establishments and aid to religious institutions as they saw fit – Robert L. Cord

First Amendment Rights

• The founding fathers did not include the 1 st Amendment in the Constitution to disallow Christianity from influencing state established institutions .

• America's founding fathers expected our nation to be (on the whole) Christian , and our government to reflect that bias.

• Side Note: • The first act of the United States Congress was to authorize the printing of 20,000 Bibles for the Indians.

Consider the following quotes found on various sites on the web…


Author Tim LaHaye says that...

"This Christian consensus is easily verified by the fact that prior to 1789 (the year that eleven of the thirteen states ratified the Constitution), many of the states still had constitutional requirements that a man must be a Christian in order to hold public office ."


• “Public schools should not be in the business of preaching to students or trying to persuade them to adopt certain religious beliefs. Parents, not school officials, are responsible for overseeing a young person's religious upbringing. This is not a controversial principle. In fact, most parents would demand the basic rights.” - Americans United for the Separation of Church & State


• “Being neutral on religion is not the same as being hostile toward it. In a multi-faith, religiously diverse society such as ours, neutrality is the appropriate stance for the government to take toward religion. Under this principle, public schools can allow for individual student religious expression without endorsing or promoting any specific faith.” - Americans United for the Separation of Church & State

Landmark Decisions

1948: McCollum v. Board of Education - U.S. Supreme Court struck down religious instruction in public schools.

1954: Tudor v. Board of Education - Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling against the distribution of Bibles by outside groups like the Gideons * 1954 also - Congress revised the Pledge of Allegiance to refer to the nation as “under God,” a phrase that has since been recited by generations of schoolchildren.


Madalyn Murray O'Hair sued the Baltimore, MD school system on behalf of her son, William J Murray, because he was being forced to participate in prayer in schools.

Landmark Decisions

1962: Engel v. Vitale - The Supreme Court disallowed a government-composed, nondenominational “Regents” prayer which was recited by students.

1963: Murray v. Curlett; Abington Township School

district v. Schempp

- In a number of major decisions, mandatory Bible verse recitation was ruled unconstitutional .

1989: Jager v. Douglas Country School District, the

11th Circuit Court of Appeals

let stand a lower ruling which found that pre-game invocations by coaches, officials or students at high school football games were unconstitutional .

Landmark Decisions

1995: Doe v. Duncanville Independent School

District -


U.S. Texas Court of Appeals for the 5th circuit

found that


student-initiated, student led prayers at sporting events were constitutional . They found that students "

are not enjoined from praying, either individually or in groups. Students may voluntarily pray together, provided such prayer is not done with school participation or supervision.

" The implication of this ruling is that it would be unconstitutional for the school administration to include a formal prayer in the game schedule .

An illustration of “Neutrality” and Postmodernism in Public Education…

Kentucky education officials neutralize ‘Christ’ The Kentucky Board of Education came under fire for approving a more contemporary system of describing historical dates in its public school curriculum. One critic said he believed modernizing the system reveals a desire to conceal from students their culture’s Judeo-Christian heritage.

The state board of education voted to continue using the abbreviations B.C. for “Before Christ” and A.D. for “Anno Domini,” which is Latin for “in the Year of the Lord.” However, the board members decided to supplement the traditional dating method with a more secular approach: C.E. for “Common Era,” and B.C.E., which stands for “Before the Common Era.” Presumably, the new designations will be B.C./B.C.E. and A.D./C.E.

The board’s vote meant that the new dating system will appear throughout Kentucky’s curriculum as well as the other materials used by educators across the state. This method of describing historical eras is already being included in textbooks across the United States, especially on the college and university level.

Rights of Christian Teachers and School Employees

• Since teachers are not only private citizens, but also agents of the state, courts have held that “ the rights of teachers in public schools are not automatically equal with the rights of adults in other settings


• Therefore the school officials to share their Christian faith is rights of teachers much more restricted than the and other rights of students . A teacher must remain totally impartial about religious matters.

What are Educators Not Able to Do?

Teachers may not do the following:

• Read the Bible or tell Bible stories in the classroom apart from teaching about religion as part of an academic curriculum • Conduct devotional exercises • Pray in the classroom or during extra-curricular events, such as sports games • Witness to students in any way while on school grounds • Subjectively discuss their own faith with students in the classroom, but they may objectively answer student questions about what various religions believe • Read their Bibles or other religious texts, pray, or otherwise when in the presence of students

What are Educators Allowed to Do?

Teachers may do the following:

• Permit a moment of quiet reflection, meditation, or prayer at the beginning of the school day.

• Teach values and moral codes in a religiously-neutral way in the classroom even if the values and moral codes are those practiced by various religious groups. • Arrange to meet students outside school hours to witness to students who are asking questions about spiritual matters. • Meet with the student leaders of Bible clubs off campus in order to assist them and train them to lead other students.

• Know their students’ rights and protect them.

• Teachers should generally be free to wear so long as the garb is clothing, jewelry, etc. indicating their adherence to a religious faith, not proselytizing or disruptive .

Prayer in school…

• Public school officials cannot be involved in the delivery of a prayer . To do so would be a violation of the principle of separation of church and state.

Can a school start the day with an activity or prayer?

• No 1 st Amendment prohibits government from promoting religion.

• Even if public school students are given the option of meditating during a moment of silence intended for prayer, requiring such a moment during the school day violates the Constitution • Can have a moment of silence if indications are not made that it is intended for prayer

Wallace v. Jaffree

, 1985

Prayer at school games?

Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe (2000) -

U.S. Supreme Court decision decided that public schools cannot constitutionally organize school prayers at games and similar regular events.

Santa Fe Independent School District

• The school organizes sporting events, and reserves a time-slot before the game begins for a student to make a statement. This has always been in the form of a religious invocation -- an historical tradition in Texas.

Prayer at school games?

• An individual student player or sports fan can engage in prayer by themselves at school games.

• A number of students, on their own , can decide to group together and engage in prayer.

• School officials may not add a prayer choosing to the game's program.

of their • School officials may not include a time slot during the game for a student to lead others in a prayer, even if the prayer was chosen by the student.

Prayer in the classroom?

Prayer in the classroom?

Student-initiated prayer is allowed in various situations and locations in the public school system.

• In school busses • At the flag-pole • In after-hours student religious clubs • In the school hallways • In the cafeteria • In the classroom before or after scheduled classes

Prayer in the classroom?

• Not only are these permitted, they are actually protected forms of speech under the U.S. Constitution. Students are guaranteed the right to pray, as long as it is not disruptive, and as long as it is not during classroom hours. • Prayer is not normally permitted as a scheduled part of classroom activities.

• An exception may be permitted if, during the school year, a mixture of prayers, statements, etc… are delivered, using material derived from a number of different religions and secular sources.

Prayer at graduation ceremonies?

• Some courts have ruled that prayer at graduation ceremonies deserves special treatment , because they are one-shot events -- a student only experiences it once. Thus, the linkage of church and state would not be repeated as it would be if prayers were given at the beginning of each school day in a classroom.

Lee v. Weisman

- (1992) Even nonsectarian prayer at a public school graduation is unconstitutional.

It violates the constitutional prohibition on establishment of religion because it involves the government (acting through the public school) in a religious activity.

200 graduates include God in ceremony

• A Kentucky school superintendent says he’s proud of the Russell County High School students who recited the Lord’s Prayer at their graduation ceremony in May. • Earlier in the day, a federal judge had banned prayers from the ceremony in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of a male student at the school. • The student “did not feel that he should have to sit through government sponsored prayer just to receive his diploma,” an ACLU attorney explained. • But during the principal’s opening graduation ceremony remarks, about 200 students prayed aloud, drawing thunderous applause and a standing ovation from the crowd.

Can a public school teach religion?


Abington v.Schempp

, Associate Justice Tom Clark wrote for the Court: “[I]t might well be said that one’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization . It certainly may be said that the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities . Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment.” A teachers guide to religion in public schools

Can a public school teach religion?

• A public school, as part of the curriculum, cannot promote religious beliefs or practices . • A public school can , however, teach about the influences of religion in history or literature . • Some states have implemented a religion class as an elective.

What about religious holidays?

• The study of religious holidays may be included in elementary and secondary curricula as opportunities for teaching about religions. • Teachers must be alert to the distinction between teaching about religious holidays, which is permissible, and celebrating religious holidays, which is not . • Recognition of and information about holidays may focus on how and when they are celebrated, their origins, histories and generally agreed-upon meanings.

What about Christmas?

• Acceptable as long as Christmas is not taught as truly the Son of God’s birthday • Totally permissible for teachers to state, however, that Christians celebrate Christmas as the birthday of Jesus, whom they believe to be the Son of God • Perfectly acceptable to use religious symbols , such as nativity scenes , as an aid or resource in teaching


religious holidays, but the religious symbols must be used


as examples of religious or cultural heritage • Use of religious music, art, or literature Christmas performances that present a variety of selections is appropriate in school

Can students read the Bible on their own as well as share the Bible with others while in school?

Consider the following case in Knoxville, Tennessee…

Bible reading banned during school recess

• • • • Luke Whitson, a 10-year-old student at Karns Elementary School in Knoxville, Tennessee, is at the center of a constitutional squabble over the right to read his Bible during regularly scheduled recess.

In May the school’s principal reportedly told the boy and his friends to quit reading, put away their Bibles, and stop bringing them to school. The principal’s instructions, which were in response to a parental complaint, put him at odds with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF). "A school official cannot tell a student that he can’t bring his Bible to school or study it with friends during non-classroom time," said Charles Pope, an ADF-allied attorney who wrote a letter addressing the situation to Knox County School District officials. "The Constitution does not prohibit Bibles during recess; it prohibits the wholesale banning of Bibles during recess." "Children have rights of speech and association during their non-instructional time, and the school may not curtail those rights because of their age," added ADF Senior Counsel Joseph Infranco. • "The school district should immediately issue a statement addressing the unconstitutional actions and policy and alerting all personnel to permit Luke and other similarly situated students to exercise their constitutional rights," Pope concluded.

Student Rights…

Distributing literature on campus may not be restricted simply because it is religious.

* Students may hand out tracts, flyers or other religious materials on campus. Religious club members may use the school bulletin board to advertise their clubs just as other clubs do.

The Student’s Bill of Rights

Does a student have a right to express his/her opinions or beliefs in school?

• Yes , as long as classes or school activities are not disrupted and no vulgar language is used the student can expresses his/her opinion or beliefs whether symbolically, verbally or in written form.

May students wear a Christian or pro-life message on their clothing?

Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District

* December 1965, a group of adults and students including students John F. Tinker (15), Christopher Eckhardt (16) , and Mary Beth Tinker (13) held a meeting at the Eckhardt home. * The group decided to show their objections to the hostilities in Vietnam and their support for a truce by wearing black armbands during the holiday season and by fasting on December 16 and New Year's Eve. *The principals of the Des Moines schools where the children attended became aware of the plan to wear armbands. *On December 14, 1965 the school met and adopted a policy that any student wearing an armband to school would be asked to remove it, and if he/she refused , would be suspended until he/she returned without the armband. The entire school was aware of the regulation that the school authorities adopted. *On December 16, Mary Beth and Christopher wore black armbands to their schools. John Tinker wore his armband the next day. They were all sent home and suspended from school until they would come back without their armbands. They did not return to school until after the planned period for wearing armbands had expired--that is, until after New Year's Day.

May students wear a Christian or pro-life message on their clothing?

The Court of Appeals, sitting

en banc,

affirmed by an equally divided court Held: 1. In wearing armbands, the petitioners were quiet and passive. They were not disruptive and did not impinge upon the rights of others. In these circumstances, their conduct was within the protection of the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.

2. First Amendment rights are available to teachers and students, subject to application in light of the special characteristics of the school environment. 3. A prohibition against expression of opinion, without any evidence that the rule is necessary to avoid substantial interference with school discipline or the rights of others, is not permissible under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. This case has been used to protect teachers as in James v. Board of Education. A federal court held that a high school teacher had a First Amendment right to wear a black armband in the classroom to protest the Vietnam War. The Court held that the teacher’s armband passed the two-part test in Tinker and did not interfere with the teacher’s classroom duties. The teacher was not coercive and did not “arbitrarily inculcate doctrinaire views in the minds of students.” Since the high school students were able to distinguish between a teacher’s personal views and those that were the official position of the school board.

Does a student have a right to express his/her opinions/beliefs in school through publication?

Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier

January 13, 1988 A faculty sponsor of the


East High School school-sponsored student newspaper in suburban St. Louis, Mo., censors stories written by students concerning teen pregnancy and the effects of divorce on children. The articles in which students discussed their sexual history and use of birth control in non-graphic manner where for student newspaper distributed to 14-year old freshman .

Does a student have a right to express his/her opinions/beliefs in school through publication?

• In a 5-3 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in St. Louis, which had upheld the rights of the students. • The majority opinion of the Supreme Court said that the rights of public school students are not necessarily the same as those of adults in other settings since the newspaper at


East High School was not a "forum for public expression" by students. • Therefore, the censored students were not entitled to broad First Amendment protection. • Due to this the Court held that the school was not required to follow the standard established in

Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District

So What Does This Mean?

• If a school can present a reasonable educational justification for its censorship , that censorship will be allowed .

• If a publication is not an public forum (when either through policy or practice opened a publication for unrestricted use by students) • It only applies to school-sponsored student publications that are not public forums: – Is it supervised by a faculty member? – Is a school official the final word on all aspects of publication?

– Is it for class credit? – Does the publication use the school's name or resources?


May students be permitted to establish a student-run Bible club?


Equal Access Act

was signed into law in 1984.

• The law applies to: – only public secondary schools.

– Schools who already have "

a limited open forum

" which means they have at least one student-led, non-curriculum club that meets outside of class time.

• All or None • Any schools meeting the above criteria must allow additional clubs to be organized, as long as: – Attendance is voluntary. – The group is student-initiated. – The group is not sponsored by the school itself, by teachers, by other school employees, or by the government. (employees cannot promote, lead or participate in a meeting but can have an employee assigned to a group for supervision purposes) – People from the community may not "

direct, conduct, control, or regularly attend activities of student groups.

" – The group is not disruptive The school is required to treat all of its student-led non-curriculum clubs equally.

On a personal note….

The Student reading the Bible and sharing the Gospel with others during school… In a span of a week… • Students complained of his talking about Jesus • Parents called in and expressed their concern • Teachers noted that it was beginning to disrupt class

The issue…

• First Amendment rights include the right to distribute Gospel tracts or other religious literature during non instructional times . • The standard that must be applied is: Does the activity materially or substantially disrupt school discipline?

- Christian Law Associations Rights in Public Schools

Another Story…

During the 2007/2008 school year, an 8


grade student met with me to discuss why there were no books on lesbianism or homosexuality in the Media Center…

The Pico Case…

• The Parents of New York, a conservative group brought to the Island Trees School Board of Education a list of questionable books that included profanity and inappropriate sexual content .

• The board of education followed it’s policy in establishing a committee established by the superintendent but during the process they had the books “unofficially removed” from the library and made a statement to the media saying, “it is our duty, our moral obligation, to protect the students in our schools from this moral danger.” • This eventually made it to the Supreme Court where on 5-4 ruling supported the students .




First Amendment litigation involving book censorship in schools has usually turned on the rights of a school board to control classroom curricula by prohibiting the use of certain texts and/or an inquiry into whether a certain challenged text is “vulgar.” Claire Mullally, Contributing Writer for The First Amendment Center

Declaration from the Christian Educators Association International

• • • •


we as Christians recognize our biblical duty to teach our children; and as citizens of the United States recognize today that mothers and fathers desire a hope and a future for their children;


public schools were founded as one of the means of educating future generations to be capable of assuming their responsibilities as citizens, discover truth and develop moral character;


the churches and all people of faith have an opportunity to assist local schools and communities to secure a safe learning environment, academic excellence, meaningful parental involvement, and community participation;


Christian churches need not only to provide for the spiritual well-being of children, parents and educators within their congregation, but also need to see their involvement in local public schools as part of the churches' vision;

Declaration from the Christian Educators Association International

• • •

Be it resolved,

as followers of Jesus Christ, we accept the responsibility to love all children as we love ourselves, and to pray for children, educators and public schools;

Be it resolved,

that we recognize and accept our opportunity as Christians and citizens to build constructive relationships with local public schools, to pursue avenues of support for those involved in public education and to encourage and disciple public school teachers, administrators, and students;

Be it further resolved,

this emphasis on public education is not intended to compromise the value nor question the validity of private, Christian, or home schools.

The Great Commission Mark 16:15

“Domestic Missionaries:” Liberty Counsel Urges Public School Teachers to Use Class Time as Christian Missionaries

• Mathew Staver (Founder & Chairman of Liberty Counsel) stated that “

teachers and public school administrators are essentially domestic missionaries

” and that since teachers spend more time with children than pastors or even their parents, Christian teachers have a “tremendous opportunity” to reach children.

• Staver urged teachers not to simply pray privately before or after school, but to seek to impart their Christian views to their students and take advantage of their position because “

Christian educators really have a missionary opportunity in the public schools


“Domestic Missionaries:” Liberty Counsel Urges Public School Teachers to Use Class Time as Christian Missionaries

“The key to the future is through the minds and hearts and souls of our youth. If you want to change our culture, the best, quickest, easiest way to do that is through the minds and souls and hearts of youth take the good news to the public school about our great religious heritage, … teachers, administrators all over the country have a tremendous, unparalleled opportunity to be able to . Whether it’s talking about religion and giving a great background whatever topic you’re talking about , or whether it’s actually evangelization immediately after school [in] the public school. There’s a great opportunity waiting for you.” – Mathew Staver

Proverbs 24:10 “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” - NIV

Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” -NIV

Daniel 6:3

“Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.” - NIV

Daniel 1: 17, 18

“To these four young men God Gave Knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning… In every matter of wisdom and understanding about the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.” - NIV

Matthew 6:25-27,30

“’Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? … If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” - NIV


Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Retrieved on July 1, 2008 from Bible Reading Banned During School Recess. Retrieved on July 1, 2008 from

Christian Educators Association International. Retrieved June 30, 2008 from

Christian Law Associations Rights in Public Schools. Retrieved on July 1, 2008 from

Kentucky Education Officials Neutralize Christ. Retrieved on July 1, 2008 from

Mullally, C. First Amendment Center. Retrieved on July 1, 2008 from

Religion in the Public Schools. Retrieved on July 2, 2008 from Student’s Bill of Rights. Retrieved on July 1, 2008 from