Religion in Public Schools - News, Information, Cases
Official Prayer in School: ACLU Opposes, Liberty Counsel Defends
Should teachers in public schools be allowed to initiate Christian prayers during official, mandatory school events? The answer to this should be an obvious and unambiguous "no," but for some reason there are many people who just don't accept the idea that the government doesn't have the authority to promote the beliefs and rituals of some particular religion. Teachers aren't priests.
Ohio Trying to Slip Religion Into Science Classes?
It looks like members of Ohio's state school board are trying to come up with a new way to insert teaching religion, creationism, and religious objections to evolution into public school science classes. The latest tactic is to create a guideline stipulating that students should be encouraged to form their own judgments about "controversial" topics. What qualifies as "controversial," though?
Judge Orders End to Teacher-Led Prayers in Missouri School
Although it's been decades since the Supreme Court ruled that public school employees do not have the authority to write prayers, recommend prayers, or lead students in prayers, there are still schools in America where this happens. It's unlikely that they are unaware of the law; instead, it's more likely that Christians simply refuse to accept that they are bound by such laws.
Texas Bible Classes: Proselytizing in Public Schools
There is an increasingly popular movement in America to have voluntary Bible classes in public schools. Supporters insist that these would be academically rigorous courses and to be fair that might not be such a bad thing. An understanding of the Bible, like an understanding of other ancient mythologies, will help students better understand literature, art, and history.
School Gives Up Defending Jesus Picture
It looks like Bidgeport High School in Harrision County, West Virginia, is going to give up trying to justify having a portrait of Jesus hanging in the hallway. Someone stole the painting, which was really dumb, but the school board has asked Americans United and the ACLU to drop their lawsuit if the board promises not to put the painting back up if and when they retrieve it.
Conservative Christian Schools Perform the Worst
Many believe that private schools offer kids a chance at a better education than what they will receive in public schools and that competition with private schools will force public schools to improve. A report from the Department of Education not only finds that public schools do about as well as private schools, but also that conservative Christian private schools do worse than all other schools
Oregon School Cancels Lunch-Time Clergy Visits
In June, administrators at the Bend-La Pine School District in Oregon finally stopped inviting ministers at the Westside Church to visit students during lunch time. Parents complained because the school was effectively helping clergy minister to their children without their consent and without them necessarily being the same denomination or religion as the families.
Kentucky Bans Infidel Texts in Schools
For at least 100 years, the state of Kentucky has banned the use of "infidel" and other "immoral" books in public schools. No one's quite sure when the law was passed, but it's a part of the state code and public schools do continue to follow it. Books that reflect any "religious denomination" are also banned, but the state doesn't consider books that promote Christianity to be covered by this.
Religious Bigotry in Delaware: Pogrom Expands to Include Muslims
Last month I wrote about the Dobrich family in Delaware, victims of harassment, abuse, and discrimination because they dared challenge the practice of Christian prayers during school board meetings (among other constitutional violations). There haven't been any new developments since Christians chased them out of the community, but more details have come out about just how bad it was.
Insurance Company Tired of School District Pushing Prayer
A few days ago I wrote about how the Indian River School District Board in Delaware was insisting on keeping Christian prayers during board meetings. The Jewish family that complained were met with intimidation and harassment. They almost voted to change the policy, then backed away. The Jewish family has been chased out of the district; the board's insurance company is suing the board.
Countering Creationists in Public Schools
Public school teachers and administrators shouldn't allow creationism, which is a religious ideology, to be presented in classes or other officially sponsored school activities (assemblies, field trips, etc.). Unfortunately, we can't always trust school administrators to do the right thing. Whether through ignorance or malice, creationism slips in and complaints from parents come too late.
School Insists on Keeping Painting of Jesus, ACLU Sues
The Harrison County School Board in West Virginia is refusing to remove a painting of Jesus from the lobby outside the principal's office at Bridgeport High School. The ACLU and AU said that they would sue if the picture isn't removed, so it looks like a legal battle will happen after all.
After Selfish Students Pray, Teacher & ACLU Adviser is Fired
In May I wrote about how graduating seniors in Munford High School in Tennessee acted selfishly by forcing a communal prayer on the graduation ceremony, all to protest a judge's refusal to allow officially sanctioned prayer. Now the teacher who served as faculty adviser for the school's ACLU club had been fired %u2014 and the circumstances are very suspicious.
Teachers Asking Students About Jesus
Do teachers in a public school have the authority or the right to talk to their students about Jesus, or even ask their students if they know what Jesus would do in their situation? It seems implausible that anyone who understands the separation of church and state - and who knows why it's important - would approve of such behavior. In North Carolina, though, some teachers think this is fine.
Florida Voucher Proposal Narrowly Stopped
In January, 2006, the Florida Supreme Court struck down a voucher law because it violated the state's constitution. This outraged Republican lawmakers, and especially Governor Jeb Bush who regarded the voucher program as a central feature of his education programs. The efforts to change the Florida state constitution failed, fortunately.
Selfish Students Pray in Unison, Disregard Non-Christian Classmates
Every year there are arguments over the place of prayers in graduation ceremonies. In theory, prayer is supposed to be a humble form of communication with a god; in practice, these arguments are over a political statement about whose religious beliefs are favored in the community. Prayer is transformed into a form of selfish self-assertion and identity politics.
Bait & Switch at School Assembly
Students at Oyster Bay High School in New York saw an enjoyable program about tolerance, put on by All Access Productions. They and students at other schools were invited for a second performance at the group's headquarters, but it wasn't what students expected. Instead of more of the same, they got a religious sermon exhorting them to accept Jesus as their personal lord and savior.
North Carolina School Invites Gideons, Free Bibles
The school board in Brunswick County, North Carolina, has voted to invite the Gideons into public schools to distribute free Bibles. Supporters think that this is necessary for the sake of Christians' freedom. Critics point out that it's wrong to give Christianity special support and privileges like this. To count as even vaguely legal, they'll have to do the same with any group that requests it.
Bible-Based Opinion on Racial Inferiority No Grounds for Discipline
If a teacher expresses her opinion on the immorality or inferiority of gays, and this opinion is based upon her interpretation of the Bible, should this be permitted in schools? Conservative evangelicals seem to think so - but what if a teacher expressed her opinion on the racial inferiority of blacks and based this opinion on the Bible?
Bible Class Being Investigated
New Hanover high schools in Wilmington, North Carolina, offer a voluntary Bible class which is being investigated - and for good reason. People aren't happy about the ACLU inquiry, but it's clear that the school administrators haven't tried to exercise much in the way of oversight or control, allowing the class to get out of hand and thereby forcing an outside investigation.
Colorado: Teacher Dumped for Playing 10 Minutes of Opera
What sorts of material should students in public schools be exposed to? There is quite a lot of debate about this issue and legitimate room for reasonable disagreement. Unfortunately, there are too many Christians who insist on being unreasonable - like those in Colorado who helped get a teacher dumped for showing students 10 minutes of the opera Faust.
Secular Humanism in Public Schools?
One commonly heard complaint from the Religious Right is that our public schools promote secular humanism - an argument made largely on the basis of the fact that their brand of Christianity is not being promoted. Aside from that, however, is there any substance to this allegation?
Florida Strikes Down Voucher Law
Christian Right leaders seem to have invested a lot of hope in Florida's school voucher program, but now the state's Supreme Court has struck it down. They didn't find that it violated the separation of church and state, but rather than it violated a state constitutional requirement for a uniform system of public schools.
Christian Supremacists Going After Public School, Homeschooling
Three decades ago, no one would have imagined the Southern Baptist Convention having moved as far to the right as it is today, now that it's been taken over by extremists. Today, few imagine that the Southern Baptists would organize theocratic control over public institutions - so why are Southern Baptists working with admitted and acknowledged Dominionists?
Spanish Bishops Protest Non-Mandatory Religious Education
Zapatero's socialist government in Spain has made a lot of changes which has outraged Catholic leaders: legalized gay marriage, liberalized divorce laws, legalized stem-cell research, and so forth. His latest move really has them in a tizzy, however: he wants to make religious education classes in public schools optional. Yes, that's right, just optional.
Philadelphia: Students Miss Math Class to Learn About Bible, Jesus
In Pennsylvania, it's legal for schools to release students during the school day for religious instruction - up to 36 hours through the entire school year. In Philadelphia, scores of students are missing out on classes like math in order to learn about Jesus and the Bible - not to mention anti-evolutionist, creationist rants.
Texas Theocrats Reject National School Board Association
The Texas State Board of Education is ending its relationship with the National Association of School Boards. This appears to be the only state to make such a move, so what prompted it? The NASBE has high standards for things like science education and sex education which Texas would rather replace with religious ideology.
School Web Filter Censors Minority Religions
Computers in schools usually have filters to keep students from viewing web sites with inappropriate material. This is understandable because parents and teachers don't want students viewing things like pornography while at school - but filters can also be used to restrict access to other material. In a Florida school, students have been denied access to information on minority religions.
Utah: Jury Rejects Ex-Teacher's Claims of Religious Bias
Earlier this year I reported on a Utah teacher who was apparently fired for being a witch. She sued for religious bias, but a jury has ruled against her despite was appears to be indisputable evidence in her favor. I'm at a loss for why she didn't win and the news report doesn't explain what could have happened.
Florida: Agreement Ends Graduations in Churches
This past year, several high schools held graduation ceremonies in churches and a lawsuit was filed to stop them. The schools refused to use a secular venue and the churches refused to make their venue more secular. Now those schools have agreed not to do it again.
Religious Schools vs. Secular Schools
It has been argued in America that it's discriminatory for the government to fund secular schools but not religious schools. Defenders of religious schools insist that it's a question of equality: to treat religious students equally, religious schools should be funded equally. Is this a reasonable argument?
Students Who Complained About Coach Face Taunting, Bullying
Yesterday I wrote about how the East Brunswick High School coach who originally resigned rather than follow the law about initiating prayers with players had changed his minded and decided to stay. Evidently, he wants to challenge what is already a settled matter of constitutional law; unfortunately, those students who complained are facing the usual response from good Christians.
Coach Will Fight to Promote His Religious Beliefs in School
Marcus Borden, the high school football coach I wrote about the other day who resigned rather than obey the law and not initiate team prayers, has decided not to resign after all. He also doesn't intend to follow the law, either, and may make a court challenge. Borden argues that he has a right as a state employee to promote his religious beliefs to his students.
Football Coach Quits Over Team Prayers
In East Brunswick, New Jersey, Marcus Borden has spent 23 years coaching high school football. He has also spent those years leading his teams in prayers. Administrators told him he had to stop when students and players objected. Instead of simply following the law, though, Borden chose to resign. Nice life-lesson in maturity, right?
Vouchers and Religious Schools
You may have heard about the Christian school which expelled a girl because it found out that her parents were lesbians. The girl didn't do anything wrong, but as a private school they can expel any student for any reason. I suppose that even if she had straight parents, she could have been expelled had her parents supported equal rights for gays. Do you want voucher money going to such schools?
Christian Faith Schools are Good, Muslims Schools Not
Two senior British clerics, one Catholic and one Anglican, have stated publicly that there is value in non-Christians attending Christian faith schools, but it would be bad for Christians to attend Muslim faith schools. Apparently, Christianity is regarded as a neutral, default religion that everyone can benefit from.
John Roberts Supports School Prayer?
Atheists are justifiably concerned about what John Roberts thinks about the separation of church and state. The available evidence indicates that Roberts does not really think highly of the concept, instead favoring greater state involvement in religious activities.
Illinois: Religious Art Removed from School
In Anna, Illinois, the Junior High School had three religious paintings hanging in the school for fifty years: Da Vinci's Last Supper and two portraits of Jesus. Some imagined that it was OK to endorse Christianity like this, but their lawyers made it clear that the school simply didn't have a case. So the paintings are gone.
Virginia Attorney General: No Separation of Church and State
School officials in Fairfax County, Virginia, decided that principals and other top officials shouldn't take part in private, religious baccalaureate services lest they give the impression of an official endorsement of those services. Teachers, however, could attend and participate if they wanted. This may have to change.
Virginia: School Removes Prayer Posters, Teacher Sues
A teacher at Tabb High School in York County, Virginia, put up posters in his classroom promoting Christian prayer and actually thought that this was legal. When school officials took them down, this teacher was offended and is suing to get them back up. Apparently, he doesn't that as a state employee he should refrain from promoting his religion to his students.
Cupertino: Silly 'Declaration of Independence' Lawsuit Ends
Remember Stephen Williams, the California teacher who sued his school because they 'banned' him from using the Declaration of Independence? Remember how the truth was very different from the claims made by the Alliance Defense Fund which represented him? Remember how a judge dismissed most of the lawsuit? Now, the rest has been withdrawn. Finally.
Bible Courses Pushing Sectarian Agenda?
The idea of having course in public schools about the Bible makes some sense. There is a lot of literature, art, philosophy, and history which requires some basic familiarity with the Bible - not just the stories in the Bible, but the ways the Bible has been used. Many, though, want to introduce Bible course in order to promote a theological agenda, not to simply educate.
Florida: Bush Promotes Christian Program for Schools
In Florida, Governor Jeb Bush is promoting a program named All Pro Dad which uses NFL athletes to promote a conservative Christian view of family, faith, and fatherhood. Central to the program is the idea that a strong family has a father which runs the household, where everyone prays and reads the Bible together, and where everyone relies on God.
Texas School District Seeks Bible Course
There is a growing movement around America to get public schools to teach about the Bible. Classes that approach the Bible from a devotional perspective would not work, but objective and scholarly classes might. Are such classes even possible, though?
Agreement Reached Over Maryland Religious Sex Education
In Montgomery County, Maryland, public schools' sex education curriculum mentioned how some religious groups have negative attitudes towards homosexuality. Christian Right groups objected to this and filed suit, so the schools won't include any of it now.
No Bibles At Recess? More Christian Right Lies
Have you heard about the Tennessee school that has banned Bibles at recess? If not, then you haven't been paying attention to right-wing news recently. That's probably a good thing, because as usually the right-wing news has been misrepresenting the situation horribly.
California: Graduation Not Held at Church
A couple of schools in Orange County, California, were going to hold graduation ceremonies at a local church - but after receiving complaints, they backed off and held graduation elsewhere. Why did anyone think it proper to hold such an event in a church?
Virginia: Biology Teacher Trying to Teach Creationism
In Abingdon, Virginia, students have been taught creationism in their science classes - for 15 years! Only recently has anyone tried to do something about it. School officials claim that they didn't know anything about the book - over 15 years, everyone managed to remain perfectly ignorant of what was going on. Sure.
Fight Over Religious Painting in School
In California, a senior student is painting a mural that he intends to represent heaven. Other students agree that it looks like heaven %u2014 too much so, in fact, and they started a petition to have it changed. He originally agreed, but after being contacted by a Christian legal firm, he's going to fight.
Florida: High Schools Require Bible Reading
Two high schools in Florida are requiring incoming 11th graders to read the book of Genesis over the summer. Some parents are upset about this, claiming that it violates the separation of church and state. School officials say that they have a very good reason for the requirement.
New Jersey: Judge Lets School Ban on Religious Song Stand
Frenchtown Elementary School doesn't want to let an 8-year-old girl sing the song "Awesome God" during a talent show because of the separation of church and state. A federal judge hasn't ruled on the merits of the case, but also won't force the school to let her sing it right now.
Australia: Church Calls for End to Secular Education
In Victoria, Australia, the Uniting Church has called for an end to all secular eduction. According to the Uniting Church, intolerance and disrespect are the consequences of children's education not being religious.
Florida: School Holding Graduation Ceremony in Church
In Brevard County, Florida, four high schools decided to hold graduation ceremonies in a local mega-church. Americans United for the Separation of Church and State represented the family of one student in a lawsuit asking that the ceremonies either be moved or the religious symbols be covered up. A federal judge ruled that the ceremonies would go forward.
Baltimore: No Muslim Holidays
Schools in Baltimore County will not have any Muslim holidays during the school year. This has upset the many Muslim families in the area because obviously Christian holidays like Christmas are still given off.
Imposing Religion on Schools
What is an "activist" judge? The Christian Right likes to toss around the term so much that it's lost any meaning it might have had, but if it were to mean something wouldn't it refer to a judge who told a school district that they have to favor one religious position over others?
California: Teacher's Lawsuit Mostly Dismissed
Remember the California teacher Steven Williams who claimed that his religious and free speech rights were violated because the school refused to let him distribute the Declaration of Independence? The truth was very different from his claim, but now a court has dismissed almost all of his lawsuit.
Coercing Faith in Class
References to religion and religious history are allowed in public schools, but the promotion of religion and religious proselytizing are not allowed. The Christian Right acts like bans on the latter are the same as bans on the former and use this deception in order to claim that secularists are trying to distort history and drive religion out of school.
More Public School Proselytizing
I earlier commented on problems involved with public school libraries having proselytizing books. Eric Muller, involved in the case, has since posted more information that makes it look much more like genuine constitutional violations are going on.
Britain: Secular Schools Cause Problems
British conservatives are hoping to expand the number of religious schools and part of their strategy appears to involve blasting secular schools as a source of social problems. Evidently, it's not enough to grow up in a religious household, a religious community, and go to church regularly. If you don't also receive a religious education, you'll be ethically challenged.
Delaware: Christians Threaten Jews Over School Prayers
In Delaware, Jews who have challenged the promotion of Christianity in school have received threats. The local Christian dominionists seem unaccustomed to being questioned and may be hoping that they won't have to defend themselves in court if they can use fear and intimidation to chase away the nasty Jews.
Proselytizing Books in a School Library
Should public school libraries have books that tell stories of proselytization? Should public school libraries have books that tell stories which place one religion explicitly above another? One parent found just such a book in a "special section" of books that students can read for extra credit and has objected quite strongly.
Teacher Preaches, Parents Sue
In North Carolina, a teacher at a public schools abused her position to preach Christianity to students. Parents complained and she promised to stop - but she ended up doing it again and, this time, parents are suing. Even the school admits that this should never have happened.
Court Rules for School vs. Christian Group
A federal appeals court has ruled in favor of a Maryland public school that refused to send home fliers in kids' bags advertising meetings of the Child Evangelism Fellowship. Should schools really help proselytizing little kids if they send home any other flyers of any community groups?
Bibles in School
Is having Bibles in public schools really so bad? It can be, depending upon the motives of those involved and what else they might want. If public schools add religious scriptures to their libraries, they should do so carefully and thoughtfully.
Blogsnark: Centennial Christians
Isn't it just awful that Christians in public schools are forced to learn about other religions? Well, some Christians certainly think so and in response a couple created COPS: Christians Opposing Public Schoolbooks.
Ireland: Faith Schools vs. Secular, Integrated Schools
One of the biggest - but generally unrecognized - contributors to the problems in Ireland has been the system of separate religious schools used by Protestant and Catholic children. Remaining separate has ensured that suspicions, ignorance, and prejudice could thrive. Efforts to create integrated, secular schools are increasing.
Released Time Story
It appears that there are quite a few school districts around the nation where there have been released-time programs that allow students to attend religion classes instead of do school work. How can parents justify the loss of school time?
Louisiana & Utah School Boards Continue Prayers
School boards in communities dominated by religious conservatives are determined to keep having official prayers at their meetings, regardless of how that affects religious minorities and regardless of what the Constitution says. Their religious traditions are, it seems, more important than anything else.
Iowa: No Bible Verses on School Lockers
Just how far should free expression go in public schools? Students still have rights, but all students have rights - including the ones who don't want to be exposed to certain messages while attending mandatory classes in a government building. When freedoms conflict, it's rare to find a solution that everyone can accept.
Teacher Filmed Forcing Student to Stand for Anthem
Should students be physically forced to stand during the national anthem? That's what happened in one school - a teacher blew his top and yanked the chair out from under the student to force him to stand. Another student caught the actions on a cell-phone video. The school board's response: consider banning cell phones that can take videos of teachers behaving outrageously.
Government Can Fund Catholic School Teachers?
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has reversed a lower court decision prohibiting federally funded AmeriCorps volunteers from teaching religion in Catholic schools. They still can't teach religion with federal funds, but they can move between religion and secular classes at will.
Louisiana: Judge Rules Against School Board Prayers
In Louisiana, a judge has ruled against the prayers that are held at the beginning of every Tangipahoa Parish School Board meeting. According to the judge, a school board meeting is different from the meeting of a legislative body like the Senate and, therefore, doesn't merit the same leeway.
Religious Schools & Religious Pluralism
Religious pluralism requires accepting the presence and status of religious doctrines that reject or oppose the status quo. What happens, though, when those doctrines are opposed to liberty and democracy - and are taught in religious schools? Can the liberal principle of pluralism or tolerance accept this?
Accommodation & Released-Time Programs in Schools
The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a New York released time program where students who wanted could leave school to attend religious instruction. Those who didn't were basically forced to just waste their time at school because no real instruction could occur with so many students gone.
North Carolina: 'In God We Trust' in Public Schools
Activists in Gaston County, North Carolina, are trying to get signs with the phrase "In God We Trust" posted in all public school classrooms. Is there a secular purpose for this? There doesn't appear to be and I can't imagine anyone thinking that there is.
Kentucky: School Dress Codes & Muslim Students
More and more public schools are starting to institute strict dress codes. Should students be able to ignore the rules when they have religious garb they want to wear? Many want to allow it, but if they allow religious exemptions and no others, then they end up favoring religion - and that's just as wrong.
Church Meeting in School
Can churches meeting in public schools? That was debated in Peabody, Massachusetts, where a school tried to deny a local church the ability to use their facilities for meetings. The church sued and the school was forced to settle. It's not a surprise, really, because the principle of "equal access" is pretty well established by now.
Valentines Day in Schools
Do schools violate the separation of church and state when they celebrate Valentine's Day? Dimitri Vassilaros thinks so, but he doesn't appear to know much about Valentine's Day - or the separation of church & state for that matter.
Religion in Public Schools
Should public schools set up programs and let students leave school for time every week in order to receive religious instruction? Some people think so - apparently, it isn't good enough to have religious education on Sundays or at home.
Michigan: Bible Class Getting Vote (Updated)
The school board in Frankenmuth, Michigan, will be voting on whether to institute a new Bible class that purports to study the Bible as history and literature. Critics contend that it's really just evangelical proselytization in disguise - and they seem to have a good case.
Michigan: Bible Class Getting Vote
The school board in Frankenmuth, Michigan, will be voting on whether to institute a new Bible class that purports to study the Bible as history and literature. Critics contend that it's really just evangelical proselytization in disguise - and they seem to have a good case.
Religious Education in Virginia
In the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, students are allowed time off from the school day to receive religious instruction - off school grounds and by teachers who are not employed by the state. Christians like this because it relieves them of the burden of having to take care of religious education on their own time; non-Christians argue that it violates the separation of church and state.
Nebraska: Math Teacher Fired for Teaching Religion
The board of Papillion-La Vista High School in Nebraska voted unanimously to fire Robert Ziegler, a second-year math teacher. His offense? He openly admitted to sharing his Christian faith with students during math classes. I wonder where he got the idea that being hired as a math teacher gave him that authority.
Georgia: Faith-Based Cheerleader Won't Return
A cheerleading coach fired by the University of Georgia for religious discrimination won't be returning to work. A judge agreed with the university, finding that Marilou Braswell did cross the line.
Oklahoma: School Loses Funds for Removing Nativity Scene
The superintendant of the elementary school in Mustang, Oklahoma, decided to remove a Nativity scene from the school's Christmas program. Local voters retaliated by voting down a bond measure that would have provided nearly $11 million towards education. Because, you know, the kids deserve to have less because of this.
Ohio: Christian Concert in Public School Cancelled
Is it appropriate for a public school to sponsor a program that includes a Christian group singing religious songs that encourage belief in their religion? Certainly not - there's no great difference between singing a sermon and speaking it.
Virginia: School Can Prohibit Religious Songs at Graduation
Is it appropriate for a public school to include a religious song during a graduation ceremony? No, not if the song is an official part of the program rather than something done by a person who is given broad latitude to speak their mind.
California School & Declaration of Independence: The Truth
When I first wrote about claims that the Declaration of Independence had been "banned" in a California school, I pointed out that the truth would probably be radically different than the allegations. Turns out I was right.
Declaration of Independence Banned?
A frequent rhetorical trick of the Christian Right is to complain that if God is removed from public schools, then the Declaration of Independence will be next. Well, some are claiming that exactly this has occurred in the San Francisco Bay Area: Steven Williams is suing because he was censored for handing out the DoI. But is this true?
Colorado: Charter School Accused of Religious Harassment
Peak to Peak, a charter school in the Boulder Valley School District in Colorado, has been accused of allowing children to be religiously harassed. Three families thus far have come forward and officials are investigating.
Christians Feel Slighted Over Lack of Christ in School Pageant
There was a time when Christian conservatives complained if their religion didn't dominate public discourse. Now they are starting to complain because their religion isn't even being taken into consideration at all - and that includes in the context of public school Christmas events.
Utah: Atheists Criticize School Board Prayers
Atheists in Utah are complaining about the policy of the state's Board of Eduction to begin meetings with prayers. According to the complaint, such prayers are only legal if the Board also opens up the meeting to comments from others - it has to be an "open forum" that is open to all points of view. The Board, however, is resisting.
Virginia: Religion Class Dropped Over Witchcraft Fears
In principle, it sounds like a good idea to have classes about religion in high schools. Students would benefit from learning more about various religions around the world. In reality, though, such classes just won't work because they require presenting Christianity on the same level as everything else and this just isn't acceptable.
Georgia: Principal Apologizes for School Prayer Poem
Many school principals, especially in the South it seems, appear to be almost completely ignorant of their duties, responsibilities, and authority when it comes to constitutional issues. They assume authority in matters they shouldn't on an almost regular basis - like for example insisting on the authority to promote their religious beliefs to others' children.
Florida Voucher Law: Three Strikes
As many expected, a district court in Florida has ruled against that state's school voucher scheme. It is, in fact, the third court to do so - how many more will it take before Christian politicians in Florida begin to get the message?
Texas: Schools Settles Lawsuit Over Harassment of Pagan Student
A pagan student who attended a Texas school has received a large settlement because she was harassed her for not being Christian like everyone else. Why was such a case even necessary - what is going on with schools in Texas?
Connecticut: Religious School Subsidies Questioned
For the last 30 years, the town of Berlin, Connecticut, has been subsidizing a local Catholic school - most recently to the tune of $50,000. Now they are being told that this probably violates the separation of church and state. My question is: why is this a surprise to anyone there?
Wisconsin: Religious Work for School Credit?
Many schools require students to participate in community service in order to graduate. Such service typically involves charity work, but what about religious activities? Should a student receive school credit for things like preaching or teaching the Bible? One school in Wisconsin has decided against this, raising complaints from religious families.
Ohio: New Rules on Religion in Columbus Schools
Schools can have difficulty dealing with religion. Some go too far in restricting what kids can do. Some don't go far enough, privileging certain religions in inappropriate ways. The schools in Columbus, Ohio, are working on some new rules designed to improve the situation there.
California: Religion Pushed on Kids at Public School
Parents at the Desert Sands Unified School District in La Quinta, California, are upset because they feel that religion has so pervaded the middle school that an atmosphere of coercive proselytizing has been created. This, of course, is why religion is supposed to be kept out of public schools.
Delaware: School Adopts New Prayer Policies
Because of complaints from a Jewish family, the Indian River District School Board in Delaware has changed its policies on prayers in schools. Now it's official that teachers and administrators aren't allowed to organize prayers in a way that favors religious speech. It's amazing that no one realized before that this should be the case.
Philadelphia: Establishing Ties Between Churches & Schools
There are many people who are so enamored of their religion that they are convinced that it should be presented in public schools. It's not enough to proselytize to adults - they are determined to use the coercive power of the state to promote their doctrines, even if subtly.
Maine: State Doesn't Have to Pay for Religious Schooling
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that it is not unconstitutional for state governments to subsidize tuition at religious schools, but that doesn't mean that state governments must subsidize tuition at religious schools. At least, that's the decision of a court in Maine.
Maryland Schools Turning to Religion?
The Charles County Board of Education in Maryland has put together a list of goals and ideas for the future. Some are pretty obvious, like improving test scores, but others include things like handing out Bibles and censoring science books that actually teach about evolution.
Florida: God Rules at School
Geoff McKee, principal at the Boca Raton High School, has a habit of injecting his personal religious beliefs into what he is doing. This has come to bother a number of teachers, one of whom is an atheist while others are Christians themselves. McKee, however, insists that he has a religious obligation to keep reminding people about his religion.
French Headscarf Ban: Another Look
American secularism is very different from French secularism, a fact that has caused many to look at the French ban on headscarves at schools as something closer to religious oppression than reasonable secularism. Part of the problem, though, is that Americans are unaware of what the situation was like in French schools before the ban.
Delaware: School Board Prayer Issue Rising
The Indian River School District Board in Delaware opens meetings with prayers and a Jewish mother has asked that they stop. Instead of polite and proper agreement, she's being met with hostility, prejudice, and bigotry - just the sort of thing one would expect from Christians who have grown used to abusing the power of the government to support their religion.
Arkansas: Broader Ban Against School Meeting Payers
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has insisted that prayers during school staff meetings don't simply have to stop because they offend someone - they have to stop because they are unconstitutional. Thus, even when the plaintiff is absent the prayers can't go on.
Louisiana: Prayers Before Games Dropped
The Tangipahoa Parish School Board in Louisiana has a long history of inappropriate support of religion. Last year a new lawsuit was filed for their promotion of prayers during football games - and it was the third time in nine years that a suit was filed. Now they have agreed to end the illegal practices.
Florida: School Vouchers Law Struck Down
A Florida law that provided funds for students at failing public schools to attend private schools, including religious schools, has been struck down by a state appeals court.
Religious Activities at Elementary School Challenged
In Louisiana, the Bossier Parish school board is fighting hard to keep various religious activities included in school activities. The very idea that a government school shouldn't be involved in promoting or supporting religion seems to have never occurred to anyone there.
Ban on School Bible Classes Affirmed
In February, 2002, a federal court ruled that weekly Bible classes in the Rhea County public schools were unconstitutional and now the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld that decision. Rhea County, by the way, was where the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial was held. Some things never change.
School to Stop Distributing Bibles
It's really amazing that any schools today would still think that it is OK to have outside religious groups come in and distribute Bibles to students - but it is true and they are around. Slowly, gradually, they are learning not to try this sort of thing.
School Holds Graduation in Church
Is it appropriate for public school students to have their graduation ceremonies in a church? Officials at Lake Zurich High School in Illinois apparently think so. Thus, they will be holding ceremonies in Quentin Road Bible Baptist Church.
Christian Bigots May Be Recalled from School Board
I've written before about the Westminster School District in Orange County, California because the school board decided not to amend it's nondiscrimination policies to include gay or transgendered children. This decision endangered a lot of state funding and, now, there is an effort to recall the three board members responsible.
Parents Fight for Government-Sponsored Prayer
Every year there are fights over prayers during graduation ceremonies. Prayers are usually excluded, but there are always parents who believe that prayers which represent their faith and their beliefs should be accorded a place of honor during a government ceremony for all students.
School Shuts Out Pagan Club
The Okaloosa County School Board in Florida passed new rules on the formation of student clubs that require a minimum of five students before a group can be formed. That rule, curiously, was created specifically to deny a student the ability to start a pagan club. Of course, the school already has more than one Christian club.
Indiana Students Divided Over Commencement Prayer
Every year there are debates over the place of prayers and other religious rituals during graduation ceremonies at public schools. Some people's religion is so important to them that they think rituals from that religion should be accorded a special place during public ceremonies for government institutions. Why?
AmeriCorps Must Stop Funding in Catholic Schools
AmeriCorps has been financing programs that put volunteers in Catholic schools, even teaching "Christian values" via programs like University of Notre Dame's Alliance for Catholic Education. Now, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler has ruled that this must stop because it violates the separation of church and state.
ACLU Helps Keep God in Schools
The Christian Right often attacks the ACLU, claiming that they are a ‘godless‘? organization trying to ban God from the public square. So where are they now that the ACLU has successfully fought for a student‘s right to use a Bible verse in their school yearbook? Hiding their heads in the sand, hoping that the story changes fast before their hypocrisy is revealed.
Settlement in Manatee School Board Prayer Case
Manatee County's school board prayers were questioned last year and they agreed to stop using the Lord's Prayer, despite really wanting to continue with the tradition of Christian-only prayers. Then, it turned out that the tradition continued after all. Now they are promising to play nice. But will they?
Supreme Court Won't Hear Case on Distributing Religious Messages
The Supreme Court will let stand a 3rd U.S. Circuit Court decision that a kindergarten student can be prohibited by a public school from distributing pencils and candy canes with religious messages. The Christian Right saw this as an important case which would help establish the ability of religious parents and religious students to use public schools as platforms for evangelization.
Muslims Students Must Pray Outside School
Previously, Muslims students in San Jose were able to pray inside school because administrators set aside a classroom for their use. Recently, though, that has been taken away because administrators feel that such actions moved too close to the promotion and endorsement of religion.
Schools Should Encourage Prayers
Some people defending the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance make the lame argument that the phrase doesn't really signify anything religious. Others, however, are more honest and acknowledge the phrases' religious meaning - and then go on to argue that there is nothing wrong with the state promoting such religious beliefs among children.
Bibles Distributed in Public School
You would think that public school officials would realize that if the separation of church and state prohibited them from doing anything, it would prohibit them from having Bibles distributed in schools during the day. Such favoritism and endorsement of a particular religion just isn't acceptable, but one school in Mississippi did it anyway. One family is complaining - but they aren't atheists.
Colorado Court Strikes Down Vouchers
In Colorado, the state Supreme Court has ruled that a voucher program is unconstitutional because it deprives local school boards the necessary control over education. Colorado's voucher program was the first since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that vouchers could be legal.
Student's Jibab Rejected in British Court
In Britain, 15-year-old girl who has wanted to wear strict Muslim attire (the jilbab, a long, flowing gown covering all her body except hands and face) has been denied this in a ruling by the high court. According to the ruling, divisions might be created among students and some might be regarded as "better Muslims" than others.
Girl Wins Right to Wear Hijab in School
I reported before on the case of Nashala "Tallah" Hern, A sixth-grade who was asked to leave school in the eastern Oklahoma town of Muskogee because she refused to remove her head scarf (hijab). The U.S. government joined her lawsuit against the school - and now the school has decided to settle instead of fight.
Ruling on Prayers at Basketball Games
During sporting events sponsored by the Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA), it is no longer permitted for official prayers to be used to start things off - even if the event is taking place at a private Christian school (for example, a basketball game between the Christian school and a public school). Christian schools are upset about this, of course.
Islam in German Schools
Muslim students are having trouble coping with the standards in German schools - not the academic standards, but the social and behavioral standards which sometimes contradict Islamic teachings. Examples include sex education, co-ed sports (like swimming), and more. What are Muslim students to do? Must they conform and adapt, or must German schools adapt to them?