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

Road Block in the Way of Justice

By Matthew Clark1414174262103

The fight for justice is never the easy road, and it doesn’t always win the first round. Yesterday a federal district court dismissed two lawsuits (at least a majority of the claims) brought on behalf of conservative groups who were targeted by the IRS. Unfortunately, the court’s ruling is based on...

read more

Finally: IRS Approves Two More Groups

By ACLJ.org1413487726924

It’s taken years, but IRS approvals are still slowly—very slowly—rolling in. The ACLJ first sounded the alarm against the Obama Administration’s unlawful targeting of grassroots conservative groups in the spring of 2012. It was not until the following year, in May of 2013, when Lois Lerner admitted...

read more

Government Coercion of Doctors?

By Francis J. Manion1412710604067

This week in federal court in Philadelphia, the American Center for Law and Justice filed a lawsuit on behalf of a pediatrician who was fired after requesting a religious accommodation of her beliefs against dispensing contraceptives – including the morning-after pill – to her pediatrics patients.

read more

BPR Buzzworthy With Jay Sekulow: IRS

By Jay Sekulow1412692098118

Jay Sekulow is Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which focuses on constitutional law. He is author of the New York Times Bestseller, Rise of ISIS: A Threat We Can’t Ignore. He hosts “Jay Sekulow Live” – a daily radio show which is broadcast on more than 850 stations...

read more