Inside this kit, you will find real, helpful facts and legal information regarding your religious rights as a student or teacher. Educators can’t display religious symbols in public schools, but that does not mean religious symbols can never appear in the classroom. The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by a Tennessee student who argued that her junior high school English teacher unfairly discriminated against her when the teacher … When a teacher who works for the state speaks to a class, the teacher represents the school and the school board. Visit the links below to see blogs on the other commonly asked questions about religion and public schools. Religious Works of Historical and Artistic Significance. We know the courts have interpreted the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to mean that public schools cannot promote religious or antireligious beliefs, yet we know that teachers can teach about religion as long as (a) the content is tied to academic objectives and (b) teachers do not attempt to indoctrinate students to a certain religious belief or nonbelief. Or if you’re not using a textbook? The question of “display” versus instructional use can be especially complex in art and music classes. The Ten Commandments could, however, be temporarily displayed in a comparative literature classroom as an instructional aid in a lesson on the Bible as a literary source for other works. “When the district asked Freshwater to remove his Bible from his desk, it was not asking him to cease a meaningless activity. Schools can place some restrictions on what students can wear, but they can't single out religious clothing. A teacher can also show support by volunteering to serve as a faculty sponsor for student-led Christian clubs. Think carefully when decorating for winter holidays. A “fast facts” sheet explaining students’ rights is available in the “For Students” section. Displaying student work sends several important messages: As teachers, we value what students do. would rest with the challenger to the religious activity. It’s when teachers try to give their opinions or influence others that it’s not okay. Schools may display this artwork and discuss religion's influence on art, architecture, or history. And in this classroom, students share their work, learning from each other. Teachers … What Does the First Amendment Say About Displaying Religious Symbols? One route is to be honest but brief about your own religious identity. Listen to this podcast from the radio program Law Talk Live “Making Sense of Religion in America’s Public Schools” from Dec. 28, 2013. Because teachers are considered agents of the state, they may not attempt to convert students in religious matters. The Ten Commandments could, however, be temporarily displayed in a comparative literature classroom as an instructional aid in a lesson on the Bible as a literary source for other works. Consider the Christmas tree. We all behave differently in different settings. Public schools teachers have the right to run student religious clubs on site immediately after the school day ends, a federal appeals court has ruled. The Thanksgiving posters are history so they should be permitted as long as they were not disruptive. The teacher may ask the students to report their own scores. Stone v. Graham (1980). Their display could marginalize non-Christian and non-Jewish students and be counter-productive to the positive school climate we work to establish. What about answering a student’s questions about faith or the Bible? At Focus on the Family, we received many questions like these during our nationwide religious-freedom event for students— Bring Your Bible to School Day on Oct. 6— as well as in response to a blog I contributed for ERLC on students’ rights. The Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment are often referred to as the Constitution’s “religion clauses” and—in certain scenarios—may seem to contradict each other. isolated activities. I have a real story of the problems this can cause. Teachers can, though, wear non-obtrusive religious jewelry such as a cross or Star of David. Indeed no teacher with any sense is heading down the road of content discrimination. Despite the Supreme Court ruling, many students and families associate them with religions and religious holidays that not all members of the school community observe or celebrate. Is bringing religious symbols into public school classrooms ever OK? The question of “display” versus instructional use can be especially complex in art and music classes. For Educators. A federal district court in New York ruled that a public school's display of a student's painting depicting a religious theme violated the first amendment's "nonestablishment of religion" clause. 1 2 The fact that a display is donated by a private group or paid for by private funds will not affect whether it is permissible under the Establishment Clause. http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/establishment-clause, http://www.tolerance.org/blog/you-can-teach-about-religion-public-school, http://www.tolerance.org/critical-practices, http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/free-exercise-clause, http://www.tolerance.org/blog/silence-golden-giving-students-choice-mat…, Critical Practices for Anti-bias Education, Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding. The 8th U.S. Schools can: At the same time, you are not allowed to inhibit the expression of religion either. "Teachers should strive to conduct their classes in an inclusive manner so that students can participate fully without compromising their own personal beliefs," wrote FFRF Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert to Superintendent Kane. While still contested in some areas, permanent displays of religious symbols on public school property violate current interpretations of the Establishment Clause. If you don't have an account. Keeping Christ in America’s Public Schools, Seminole: Christian Law Association. The Supreme Court has held that the Christmas tree is a secular symbol of the holiday season; therefore, the display of a Christmas tree in the school lobby, temporarily, does not violate the Establishment Clause. It is up to you which one you choose. Despite the Supreme Court ruling, many students and families associate them with religions and religious holidays that not all members of the school community observe or celebrate. Information… We have included two different sized booklets for printing to suit your display needs. They may, however, display religious symbols in teaching about religion, as long as they are used as teaching aids on a temporary basis as part of an academic program. Celebrate, no. One student, chooses Jesus as their hero, and draws a picture of the Last Supper. 3. Religion in teaching has been allowed as long as it is objective. Probably not. What Religious Studies Teaches You. The Ten Commandments, for example, are unarguably religious in nature. The courts may view such garb as creating a potential establishment-clause problem, particularly at the elementary school level. Bookmark What Does the First Amendment Say About Displaying Religious Symbols? A Hanukkah menorah has also been determined to be a secular symbol and does not violate the Establishment Clause when displayed temporarily. Teaching Tolerance and the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding can help. Teachers who wish to pray or engage in other group religious activities must do so outside of the presence of students. They can simply choose pieces of their own work that they give to the teacher to assemble into a display. The Bible can be taught as literature, so the reading of the story should be allowed as long as it is not a required assignment. Wicht is the senior manager for teaching and learning at Teaching Tolerance. “The Free Exercise Clause protected Freshwater’s conduct as to his personal Bible,” she wrote. With older students, you can have them predict what a chapter will be about based on the pictures from the opening page. The assignment will be displayed in the classroom. Teaching of evolution: In Epperson v. You may not try to convert a student to your religious views or teach that your beliefs are the only correct ones. A Hanukkah menorah has also been determined to be a secular symbol and does not violate the Establishment Clause when displayed temporarily. When learning about comparative religions, does your Buddhist student see herself in the instruction and class objectives as clearly as her Pentecostal classmate does? Inside this kit, you will find real, helpful facts and legal information regarding your religious rights as a student or teacher. This law indicates that where a "limited open forum" is made available to students it is unlawful to deny equal access or discriminate against any students who wish to conduct … Teaching the role of religion in the history of the United States has been allowed as well. Make sure your teaching reflects your classroom diversity. Educators have the responsibility to strike a balance between the two clauses, remaining within the legal parameters for honoring students’ right to free expression while avoiding messages or displays that favor one religion over another or that favor religion over non-religion. The Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment are often referred to as the Constitution’s “religion clauses” and—in certain scenarios—may seem to contradict each other. What is the difference between a moment of silence and quiet reflection? If the teacher covers over the religious symbol on the student’s work, is the student being denied his right to free exercise? • What does religious content look like in an academic setting? If a teacher assigned an art project with a Christmas theme, a student would be allowed to depict a manger scene, just as the student could draw Santa … Religion as Academic Content. Their permanent display in public schools communicates an endorsement for Christianity—just as hanging a Star of David in a classroom could make it appear that the school favors Judaism. 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