Biased: A Tale Of Two Schools
- By Alan Sears
- Posted Apr 15, 2014
- No Comments »
“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nathaniel asked Phillip, when his friend first invited him to meet Jesus (John 1:46). As it turned out, something very good did, as Nathaniel himself would soon affirm – but not until Jesus helped him confront his entrenched bias against something he didn’t really understand.
The same kind of bias currently holds sway in the Nazareth Area School District in Pennsylvania,where officials recently censored a note a first-grader included in Valentines to his classmates, simply because the note mentioned God and quoted John 3:16.
The story followed a fairly familiar line to Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys, who have filed a slew of similar cases in recent years. The first-grader brought his handmade cards to class to hand out to his classmates. His teacher noted the contents and took them to the principal, who ordered a cease and desist, telling the boy’s parents that the biblical references could be “offensive” to somebody.
The school officials wrongly claimed that the constitution ensures a “freedom from religion” and that the child’s cards violated the school district’s policy on “Unprotected Student Expression,” which states that the school officials can prohibit student expression that seeks “to establish the supremacy of a particular religious denomination, sect or point of view.”
On April 7, ADF attorneys filed a federal lawsuit against the school district on behalf of the boy and his parents. The suit was filed in the same court that struck down an identically-worded policy at another Pennsylvania district in 2008, saying such policies “restrict what effectively amounts to all religious speech, which is clearly not permissible under the First Amendment.”
“To single out a faith-based message for censorship is exactly the type of hostility to religion that the First Amendment forbids,” says ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “We hope the school district will revise its policies to respect the constitutionally-protected free speech of its students and make ongoing litigation unnecessary.”
In contrast, officials at the Dearborn Public School District in Michigan have shown themselves considerably more open-minded.
As part of a district program that allows a variety of community groups to distribute promotions of their upcoming activities, Dearborn Public Schools recently allowed fliers promoting an “Eggstravaganza” Easter egg hunt at Cherry Hill Presbyterian Church to be distributed to students. A parent complained that handing out the fliers violated the First Amendment.
ADF attorneys sent a formal letter last week encouraging those educators’ openness to religious free speech. In fact, as we wrote, “the First Amendment does not permit public schools to exclude churches from literature distribution” and “we commend the school district for respecting citizens’ freedom of speech and for properly teaching students to tolerate opposing views.”
The letter also points out that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, which has jurisdiction over the state of Michigan, has said that the “separation of church and state” is an “extra-constitutional construct [that] has grown tiresome. The First Amendment does not demand a wall of separation between church and state.”
Please join me in praying that a good understanding of that fact will yet come out of Nazareth, Pennsylvania – and with it the healthy exchange of ideas that has come out of every school district where students are free to gracefully and respectfully share their beliefs and religious convictions.
How will you and your children live out your faith this Easter? Find out your child’s rights to expressing their faith. And share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
Author: Alan Sears