October 2008 Students may not engage in religious harassment of others or compel other students to participate in religious expression, and schools may control aggressive and unwanted proselytizing. Inspire Harmony If religious practices where allowed into the classroom then students would have the opportunity to learn about different religions and cultures first hand. At the time of its school prayer decisions in the early 1960s, the Supreme Court had never ruled on whether students have the right of free speech inside public schools. The court reasoned that students attending the graduation ceremony were as coerced to acquiesce in a student-led prayer as they would be if the prayer were offered by a member of the clergy, the practice forbidden by Weisman in 1992. Religion is a very important aspect of human life. Many judges distinguished these home schooling cases from Yoder on the grounds that Yoder involved teenagers rather than young children. The court also pointed to evidence that the legislation’s sponsor hoped that the balanced treatment requirement would lead science teachers to abandon the teaching of evolution. It helps kids develop psychologically. (Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who was then a member of the appeals court, joined a dissenting opinion in the case, arguing that the graduating students’ rights to religious and expressive freedom should prevail over the Establishment Clause concerns.). The limits of Widmar and Mergens were later put to the test in Rosenberger v. University of Virginia (1995) and Good News Club v. Milford Central School District (2001). The two clauses say, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Before those two court decisions, courts had applied the religion clauses only to actions of the federal government. The “Religion at School” section focuses on school prayer and the pledge of allegiance, including the reasons for the constitutional ban, legal challenges, and the "minute of silence" option. The disputes then were over which Bible and which prayers were appropriate to use in the classroom. Similar conflicts erupted during the 1850s in Boston and other parts of New England. Other courts, however, have invalidated school policies that permit student speakers to include religious sentiments in graduation addresses. (The new survey finds that 8% of teens in public school have ever seen a teacher lead the class in prayer, and the same share have ever had a teacher read to the class from the Bible as an example of literature.). The decision was similar to an earlier ruling by the U.S. In 1985, a year after Congress passed the equal access law, school officials in Omaha, Nebraska, refused a student request for permission to form a Christian club at a public high school. In concurring opinions, however, four justices expressed the view that the Constitution permitted recitation of the pledge – with the phrase “under God” – in public schools. When outlawing required Bible study in schools in 1963, the Supreme Court established that religion may be taught where appropriate so long as it amounts to objective instruction about religion rather than indoctrination. This was the 10th time he taught a teachers’ course on religion, whether as a summer intensive or a 15-week night course during the school year. The court said the school’s policy against religious discrimination by student groups was unenforceable in this instance. However, the Montgomery County curriculum included materials in teacher guides that disparaged some religious teachings on homosexuality as theologically flawed and contrasted those teachings with what the guide portrayed as the more acceptable and tolerant views of some other faiths. Indeed, challenges have come from Christian groups arguing that school policies discriminate against Christianity by promoting cultural pluralism. Because the books did not explicitly adopt or denigrate particular religious beliefs, the court concluded, the parents could insist neither on the removal of the books from the schools nor on their children opting out. In Roberts v. Madigan (1990), a federal district court similarly upheld the authority of a public school principal in Colorado to order a fifth-grade teacher to take down a religious poster from the classroom wall and to remove books titled “The Bible in Pictures” and “The Life of Jesus” from the classroom library. But Harper graduated from high school, and the case took a different turn. The students said the flag represented a graven image and that their religion forbade them from recognizing it. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Illinois High School Association was constitutionally obliged to accommodate Orthodox Jewish basketball players who wanted to wear a head covering, despite an association rule forbidding headgear. The case was widely viewed as a contest between the right of free association and nondiscrimination policies. In 1844, fighting broke out between Protestants and Catholics in Philadelphia; a number of people died in the violence and several Catholic churches were burned. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Florida school officials were right to order the removal of student-created religious messages and symbols from a school beautification project. More sweeping in its consequences is Lee v. Weisman (1992), which invalidated a school-sponsored prayer led by an invited clergyman at a public school commencement in Providence, Rhode Island. And the results have made the rules for religious expression far more complex. These complaints typically rest on both the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment and the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause, which forbids the state to deprive any person of “life, liberty or property without due process of law.” The Supreme Court has interpreted them as protecting the right of parents to shape and control the education of their children. While public schools are not supposed to support one particular religious belief, neither should a school require others to accept religious or anti-religious beliefs. Not all the cases involving religion in the curriculum concern the promotion of the beliefs of the majority. The court determined that a state law requiring children to attend school until the age of 16 burdened the free exercise of their families’ religion. The case effectively outlawed a practice that was customary in many communities across the country, thus fueling the conservative critique that the Supreme Court was inhospitable to public expressions of faith. More recently, parents and students have, on religious liberty and other grounds, sued school districts that accommodate transgender students by allowing them to use bathroom and locker facilities that match their current gender identity rather than their sex at birth. Circuit Court of Appeals nevertheless ruled that the high school could not permit religious content in the commencement speech. In 1954, Congress revised the Pledge of Allegiance to refer to the nation as “under God,” a phrase that has since been recited by generations of schoolchildren. The Legal Status of Religious Organizations in Civil Lawsuits This debate centers on public schools; very few people are arguing that religious doctrine cannot be taught at private schools or that teachers at such schools cannot lead students in prayer. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which found unconstitutional a policy of the U.S. service academies that all cadets and midshipmen attend Protestant, Catholic or Jewish chapel services on Sunday (Anderson v. Laird, 1972). The same basic reasoning recently led a three judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to declare the practice of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools unconstitutional due to the phrase “under God.” Although a 1943 Supreme Court decision forbids schools from forcing students to say the pledge, many states and school districts retain policies that the schools lead it every morning. 3 (1996), the 2nd U.S. Learn how the both sides of religious liberty affect controversies over prayers at school, students' expression of their faith, religious holiday displays, teaching about religions, and more. The court’s 5-4 decision rested explicitly on the argument that graduating students were being forced to participate in a religious ceremony. Some Americans are troubled by what they see as an effort on the part of federal courts and civil liberties advocates to exclude God and religious sentiment from public schools. The first decision by the Supreme Court on parents’ rights to control their children’s education came in Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925), which guarantees to parents the right to enroll their children in private rather than public schools, whether the private schools are religious or secular. (The new Pew Research Center survey finds that one-in-ten religiously affiliated teens in public school leave the school for religious activities. It began with the landmark 1962 ruling, Engel v. Vitale, that school-sponsored prayer – even nonsectarian prayer – violated the Establishment Clause.