The Cross: A Stumbling Block To …Public School Teachers

By Alliance Defending Freedom Litigation Counsel Rory Gray

Recently, a high school student from Minnesota contacted Alliance Defending Freedom when his art teacher stated on the first day of class that he “censored” two things:  nudity and religion.  Concerned that he would not be able to do the religious painting he planned to donate to his church, the student ran four proposals by his teacher.  The teacher was impressed by the student’s artistic ideas but tried to persuade him to paint a non-religious subject.  Fortunately, before the student gave in, we were able to explain that the First Amendment protects Christians’ right to express their faith in school projects as long as their work satisfies all curricular requirements.  The student was then able to talk to his teacher again and his plan for a unique piece of religious art was finally approved.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time public school teachers have compared Christianity to nudity, violence, sexual innuendo, or other proscribable subject matter.  Alliance Defending Freedom represented a high school student from Wisconsin several years ago who was subjected to disciplinary action and received a zero on his art assignment when he drew a landscape containing a road, clouds, and mountains with a cross in the background, surmounted by the words “JOHN 3:16—A sign of love.”  Although the teacher had approved multiple pieces of art filled with demonic themes, this “sign of love” was censored because it violated a school policy against depicting “blood, violence, sexual connotations, [or] religious beliefs.”  We filed a lawsuit challenging these unconstitutional actions and the school district ultimately settled the case, changing its policies to allow student religious expression that satisfies a project’s requirements.

We hope that you never encounter this type of discrimination in expressing your faith in class assignments.  For the Supreme Court has clearly recognized that “students are entitled to freedom of expression of their views.”  Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Cmty. Sch. Dist., 393 U.S. 503, 511 (1969).  But if a public school official tries to prevent you from expressing a religious viewpoint in an assignment that meets all project requirements, Alliance Defending Freedom is here to help.  You can contact us at 1-800-835-5233, on our website at, or at

Author: Alliance Defending Freedom