Friday, 14 Dec 2018
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Can students pray in public schools? Can teachers say "Merry Christmas"? What the law allows – and forbidden.

Wyoming State Representative Cheri Steinmetz, R-Lingle, on Tuesday, March 6, 2018, shows the example of a poster "In God We Trust" in Cheyenne, Wyo. Steinmetz is sponsoring a bill that would allow people to donate such posters to display in prominent places in state buildings and schools. Its bill has been approved by the House of States and is currently under consideration by the Senate of that state. It was approved by a Senate committee on Tuesday. (AP photo by Bob Moen) A few years ago, I published an article on what teachers and students can and can not legally do in public schools about religion – and with the approach of the holiday season, I start again (with some additions). Below, you can find out if children can pray at school and what teachers can present to children about religion. -0-0-0- Can students pray inside their public schools? Can teachers say "Merry Christmas" to their students? Can we play religious music in public schools? Yes, yes and yes. There has been a lot of misunderstanding about what is permitted and prohibited to speak about religious expression in public schools since the US Supreme Court banned school-sponsored prayer in public schools in a decision history of 1962, claiming that it violated the First Amendment. In fact, in 1995, Bill Clinton, then president, published a note entitled "Religious Expression in Public Schools", in which it was said in particular: "It seems that some school officials, teachers and parents have supposed that any religious expression was either inappropriate, or quite forbidden, in public schools. As our courts have reaffirmed, however, nothing in the First Amendment converts our public schools into zones without religion nor does it require that all religious expressions be left at the door of the school. Although the government can not use schools to compel the conscience of our students, nor to officially sanction religion, government schools can not discriminate against private religious expressions during the school day. Schools are prohibited from initiating or sponsoring religious activities, including prayer, but religious groups are allowed to meet on the school grounds after school, and students may pray to anyone who or whoever they want at any time of the day, provided they do it in private do not try to force others to do the same. Religion can (and should) be a class subject – but not proselytized – in public schools, sacred music can be played in schools under certain circumstances, and schools can not prevent teachers or students from telling each other "Merry Christmas". Charles C. Haynes, vice president of the Freedom Forum Institute and founding director of the Religious Freedom Center, wrote it a few years ago. It still holds. (The Freedom Forum Institute is the Education and Outreach Partner of the Freedom Forum and Newseum and includes the First Amendment Center, the Center for Religious Freedom, the Newseum Education Department and programs for diversity and inclusion.) The assertion that public schools are hostile to Christians can increase caucuses in Iowa, but there is only one way to do it. only one problem: this is not true. In fact, students of all faiths are in fact free to pray alone or in groups during the school day, provided they do not disrupt the school or interfere with the rights of others. Of course, the right to take part in a voluntary prayer or religious discussion does not necessarily include the right to preach to a captive audience, such as an assembly, or to compel other students to participate. Today, visit public schools across America and you will likely see children praying around the flagpole, sharing their faith with classmates, reading scriptures in their free time, forming religious clubs and, Another way, bring God with them every day through the door of the school. . Regarding the Christmas celebration, students are free to say "Merry Christmas", to give Christmas messages to others and to organize their devotions in Christian student clubs. It is true that some officials of public schools still ignore (or ignore) the First Amendment by censoring the religious expressions of students protected by the law in force. But when they are challenged in court, they invariably lose. In fact, unlike the mythology of the war of cultures, there are more discourses and religious practices in public schools today than ever before for a hundred years. When politicians demonize the courts to ban God from schools, they rely on the confusion that exists between the First Amendment and the First Government between the governmental discourse promoting religion, which the clause forbids, and the student speech promoting religion, which is protected by the clauses of free exercise and freedom of expression. . The United States Supreme Court has never ruled that children can not pray at school. What the Court has done – and continues to do – is to suppress school-sponsored prayers and devotional exercises as violations of religious freedom. As a result of these decisions, school officials can not impose prayers or organize prayer events or turn the school auditorium into a local church for religious celebrations. Students, however, are not the government; they can – and often do – pray openly and share their faith in public schools. And what about religious symbols? This is taken from Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a left-wing non-profit organization: Is the introduction of religious symbols in public school classrooms still acceptable? Many educators struggle with this issue, fearing to stumble on the lines that protect our freedom of religion and separate the church and the state. We know that the courts have interpreted the First Amendment clause to mean that public schools can not promote religious or anti-religious beliefs. However, we know that teachers can teach religion as long as (a) the content is linked to academic goals and (b) teachers do not seek to indoctrinate students to a certain religious belief or non-belief. But does that answer the question about religious symbols? Use symbols as a teaching aid and not as a permanent display or decoration. Although still contentious in some areas, the permanent display of religious symbols on public school grounds violates current interpretations of the settlement clause. The Ten Commandments, for example, are unquestionably religious in nature. Their permanent presence in public schools indicates their adherence to Christianity – just as suspending a star of David in a classroom might suggest that the school favors Judaism. The Ten Commandments, however, could be temporarily displayed in a class of comparative literature as a teaching aid in a Bible lesson as a literary source for other works. Teaching aids, in this context, are objects referenced during the course of instruction to help students understand a particular religious heritage. Another example might be a Muslim prayer rug illustrating Salah's Islamic practice or a poster on Crusades in a class of history depicting people carrying crosses. The issue of display versus instructional use can be particularly complex in art and music classes. Music and religious art can be part of classroom instruction, but it is up to the teacher to clarify the connection with academic content, to refrain from any form of proselytism or denigration of religion or its followers, and confronting it, and including works of art representing multiple religious and secular worldviews. Consider the Christmas tree. The Supreme Court stated that the Christmas tree was a secular symbol of the holiday season; therefore, the display of a Christmas tree in the lobby of the school, temporarily, does not violate the clause of establishment. It was also determined that the Chanukah Menorah was a secular symbol and did not violate the settlement clause when it was posted temporarily. Even then, public schools must be cautious in choosing to turn off these symbols. Despite the decision of the Supreme Court, many students and families associate them with religions and religious holidays that not all members of the school community observe or celebrate. Their presentation could marginalize non-Christian and non-Jewish students and go against the positive school climate we are working to create. Colby May, director of the Washington office of the American Center for Law and Justice, wrote an article on the same topic that is published on the website of AASA, or the School Surintendents Association, and proposed advice, including the following: Permits? One problem that public school administrators and teachers often face is the appropriate role that religion can play during class teaching hours. There is an essential difference between "religious activity" and "religious instruction" in the classroom – that is, to tell students that the principles of a religion are true and that It is appropriate to follow them, which is not allowed, and the teaching of religion, such as: members of various religions believe that this is permissible. The US Department of Education explains this in its 2003 guidelines, Religious Expression in Public Schools: "Teachers and school administrators, when they act in this capacity, are representatives of the school. State and are precluded by the Establishment Clause from soliciting or encouraging religious activities. and to participate in such activity with the students. Teachers and administrators are also prohibited from discouraging activities because of their religious content and from soliciting or encouraging anti-religious activities. Although the guidelines prohibit public school teachers from engaging in religious activities in the classroom, they argue that the school clause does not mean that religion is strictly prohibited from public schools in all aspects. In the judgment Stone v. Graham in 1980, the Supreme Court stated that the case before him "was not a case in which the Ten Commandments are integrated into the curriculum, where the Bible can be used constitutionally for an appropriate study. of history, civilization, ethics, comparative religion, etc. ". In other words, the Bible, the Koran and other religious texts can be studied or used in other ways in public schools for their literary, poetic or historical aspects, but schools can not teach that religious principles of these principles. the texts are true or false. In this regard, the guidelines state: "Public schools may not provide religious instruction, but they may also teach religion, including the Bible or other scriptures: the history of religion, comparative religion, the Bible (or other scriptures) as literature and the role of religion in the history of the United States and other countries is a licensed subject in public schools. Similarly, religious influences on the arts, music, literature, and social studies can be taken into account. In addition, in one case in 2000, a federal court ruled that teachers could address religious issues in greater detail in response to student questions. The bottom line is that religious beliefs and practices can be discussed in class in an academic and non-devotional way. School Administrator Magazine, October 2006, published by AASA, The School Surintendents Association. .

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