Reference to God Removed From Student Assignment | American Center for Law and Justice
  Search  |  Login  |  Register

Student's Reference to God Removed

By CeCe Heil1339173385000

We were recently contacted by the father of a second grade student who attends a public elementary school. In response to an assignment, the second grader wrote a short poem in her journal that included the line, “Love is the earth that God made.” Her teacher crossed out that line and said that discussion of God was not allowed in class.

The father asked us if we could provide him with materials or guidance before he discussed the matter with the teacher. We sent him a personalized letter the same day that he contacted us that explained that “student expression that includes a religious perspective in response to class assignments, such as your daughter’s poem, is protected by the First Amendment.” The letter discussed various Supreme Court cases recognizing student free speech rights, including religious speech, and also quoted guidelines issued by the United States Department of Education that state:

Students may express their beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions. Such home and classroom work should be judged by ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance and against other legitimate pedagogical concerns identified by the school. Thus, if a teacher’s assignment involves writing a poem, the work of a student who submits a poem in the form of a prayer (for example, a psalm) should be judged on the basis of academic standards (such as literary quality) and neither penalized nor rewarded on account of its religious content.

The father gave our letter to the Principal and also to an experienced teacher, who discussed it with his daughter’s teacher (who was in her first year teaching). The teacher explained that she was not aware of what the guidelines were concerning student religious expression and had believed that any discussion of religion in a public school classroom was prohibited. The father informed us that he and the other teacher will each keep a copy of the letter for future reference if similar issues arise.

He extended his gratitude to the ACLJ by writing, “Your letter was perfect and exactly what I needed to be able to speak from a position of knowledge on what was clearly a breach of my little daughter’s right to her own beliefs and expression. Thank you very much for your help and a special thanks to you and the ACLJ for such a quick response.” Unfortunately, this kind of situation happens quite often, but we will continue to defend student free speech rights across the country.

Latest in
Free Speech

IRS Continues Religious Targeting

By Jay Sekulow1452802669572

A new bombshell government report confirms fears that the Obama Administration’s IRS is still targeting conservative groups based on “religious” and “political” views. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) report requested by Members of Congress reveals further proof of what we’ve been arguing...

read more

The IRS backs down

By Jay Sekulow1452291239789

Americans spoke out. And the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) listened. A new regulation proposed by the IRS would have some nonprofit charities report the Social Security numbers of donors giving at least $250 in one year. The regulation would permit, but not require, charitable organizations to...

read more

ACLJ Takes On Angry Atheists’ Demand

By Benjamin P. Sisney1451580328895

The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) has demanded that private hotel chains remove Gideon-placed Bibles from their hotel rooms. The ACLJ has responded, on behalf of more than 178,000 Americans, sending a letter to set the record straight to each of the hotels harassed by FFRF. As we’ve...

read more

ACLJ Forces IRS to Comply with the Law

By Carly F. Gammill1451508978615

The ACLJ has secured an important victory in our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case against the IRS on behalf of Citizens for a Strong New Hampshire. After a year of litigation, which followed over four months of waiting for the IRS to respond to its FOIA request, we finally succeeded in...

read more