In Cheektowaga, New York, science teacher Joelle Silver is suing the school district because her supervisors had the gall to force her to stop promoting her religion in the context of her job. Apparently, she believes she has a constitutional right to push Christianity on other people's children and the that government schools have an obligation to assist her evangelical cause.
Image © Austin Cline
How bad was it? Joelle Silver had numerous religious posters hanging in her classroom, most of which had Bible verses on them and one with a religious quote from Ronald Reagan. A drawing of the crucifixion of Jesus sat on her desk. A "prayer request box" sat in her classroom and it, too, was covered with Bible verses. She also invited a religious instructor to deliver a religious message during a class on Anatomy & Physiology.
It's a tragedy that she was allowed to get away with so much for so long and that a complaint had to be filed before anyone in the school district bothered to step in and uphold the law. Because Joelle Silver got away with imposing her religion on students for so long, though, she now seems to view such behavior as her right rather than as an injustice, thus her new lawsuit.
Here's what a letter from the school district lists as the violations in Joelle Silver's classroom, though only after receiving a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation:
I find that you have four commercially produced posters displayed in your classroom that feature the following Bible verses:After being notified of the investigation, Joelle Silver actually used class time to attack the student who originally reported all of the constitutional violations. According to Silver, it's the one who reports a teacher who is breaking the law, not the teacher, who lacks integrity and character. Silver also likened such a student to someone who cheats on a test... because expecting government employees to adhere to the law is totally unethical, right?"WASH AWAY ALL MY INIQUITY AND CLEANSE ME FROM MY SIN .... WASII ME. AND I WILL BE WHITER THAN SNOW." PSALM 51 :2,7.In addition, I find that you placed another poster on your classroom wall which appears to have been generated with the use of a computer and printer. The poster in question superimposes the following Bible verse over computer generated images of an American flag, school books, etc.:
"THE LORD IS MY ROCK, AND MY FORTRESS, AND MY DELIVERER; MY GOD, MY STRENGTH, AND WHOM I WILL TRUST:' PSALM 18:2.
"THE HEAVENS DECLARE THE GLORY OF GOD; THE SKIES PROCLAIM THE WORK OF HIS HANDS." PSALM 19: 1
"LET THEM PRAISE THE NAME OF THE LORD, FOR HIS NAME ALONE IS EXALTED, HIS SPLENDOR IS ABOVE THE EARTH AND THE HEAVENS." PSALM 148:13"Be on guard. Stand true to what you believe. Be courageous. Be strong. And everything you do must be done in love." 1 Corinthians 16: 13-14.In addition, I find that you posted a quote from President Ronald Reagan on your classroom wall which states:
I also find that you posted a sketch or drawing on your classroom wall, depicting three crosses on a hill. I conclude that this artwork is an obvious reference to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ at Calvary, in Jerusalem."Without God there is no virtue because there is no prompting of the conscience ... without God there is a coarsening of the society; without God democracy will not and cannot long endure ... lf ever we forget that we arc One Nation tinder (ind, then we will be a Nation gone under."Furthermore, I find that since late September or early October, you have permitted the High School's student Bible Study Club, which you are the staff monitor of, to place and maintain a 'Prayer Request' box in your classroom. covered with bible verses and other religious messages, such as:"Inspired Bible Club Prayer Requests."In addition, I find that you have placed sticky notes on your desk that contain bible verses and other religious messages, such as:
"For where two or three have gathered in my name, I am in the midst" Matthew 18:20.
"And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith:' Matthew 21 :22.
"Whatever you ask in my name. this I will do, that the father may be glorified in the son. If you ask me anything in my name, I 'Will do it:' John 14:13-14.
"We have to pray with our eyes on God, not on the difficulties." Oswald Chambers."I will remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord'" Psalm 27: 13-14.I also find that you have placed and maintained a humorous poster in your classroom, depicting an antique telephone and including the following script:
"For the company of the godless is burren, and fire consumes the tents of the corrupt. They conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity. and their mind prepares deception." Job 15:34-34.
"So let us seize and hold fast and retain without wavering the hope we cherish and confess, and our acknowledgement of it. for He who promised it IS reliable (sure) and faithful to His word ." Hebrews 10:23.
"Lord, when we are wrong make us willing to change. and when we are right make us easy to live with:' (quoting Scottish Clergyman, Peter Marshall)."It's for you ... GOOD MORNING, THIS IS GOD ... I WILL BE HANDLING ALL YOUR PROBLEMS TODAY. I WILL NOT NEED YOUR HELP, SO HAVE A GOOD DAY."Finally, in reference to Dr. Luther Robinson, M.D., who you procured as a guest speaker to address your Anatomy and Physiology class on May 31, 2012, I find that his power point presentation included two slides thai displayed Bible verses, in the context of his lecture on morphology, which focused on human embryonic and fetal development. including birth defects and genetic disorders. The slides included the following Bible verses:"And the angel of the Lord appeared ... and said. " ... Now therefore beware. I pray thee, and drink not wine or strong drink." Judges 13:3.4I further find that you knew or should have known of the content of these slides in advance of Dr. Robinson's presentation to your class on May 31, 2012. since, in the "Guest Speaker Request Fonn" that you filled out (copy enclosed), you indicated that you had reviewed the materials in advance of the presentation.
"Whom shall I send and who will go for Us?" "Then I said ... " Isaiah 6:7,8
Silver, who lives in Amherst, is being represented by the American Freedom Law Center, a nonprofit law firm that focuses on religious liberty cases.
Attorney Robert J. Muise maintained that constitutional violations occurred when district officials forced Silver to remove the religious materials. "They essentially want her to cease being a Christian once she enters school district property," said Muise.
Source: Buffalo News
So, in order to "be a Christian," Joelle Silver has to promote her religion to other people's children? Silver has to abuse her position as a government employee by forcing her preferred religious messages and ideology on to a captive audience? I don't think so -- Christianity doesn't actually require this. And if it did, that would be too bad because the government doesn't have an obligation to accommodate such behavior.
Joelle Silver and her lawyer are complaining that other teachers are allowed to have personal messages in their classroom, which demonstrates that they either don't understand constitutional law or they are hoping the courts don't. There is no constitutional mandate that the government not endorse any ideas nor is there a mandate that government employees not endorse any ideas.
Government employees, be they teachers, police officers, or politicians, thus have wide latitude to endorse all sorts of personal beliefs (especially if they don't contradict any government polices and aren't illegal). This does not, however, apply to religion -- government employees have no latitude when it comes to endorsing personal religious beliefs.
Thus a teacher can hang a poster endorsing environmentalism, animal welfare, democracy, technological advancement, etc., but not a poster endorsing Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, etc. The difference is clear and unambiguous. Somehow, I have trouble believing that Joelle Silver and her lawyer are completely ignorant of it.