Anti-Christian organizations have been so successful in bullying schools about religion that we are constantly hearing of teachers and faculty trampling on students’ First Amendment rights.
- Fifth grader Katie Ayers was not allowed to hand out flyers inviting other students to a Christmas party at her church.
- Clark Ogilvie, Superintendent of Owasso School District denied permission for a before-school club to hand out flyers for a martial arts event because it mentioned Christ on the flyers.
- Honor Student Dakota Ary was given a two day suspension for sharing his Christian faith and what the Bible says about homosexuality being a sin.
- A Good News Club that met after school at one of the campuses of Minneapolis Special School District No. 1 was told they could no longer meet at the school because they were proselytizing.
- The US Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to allow a teacher to harass and humiliate students in class because of their Christian and creationist beliefs.
These are only the tip of the iceberg of incidents of teachers and faculty violating the First Amendment rights to freedom of religion and speech of Christian students. Now it’s time to add Isaiah Martinez to the list of persecuted students.
Isaiah is a first grader at Merced Elementary School in West Covina, California. A few days before the Christmas break, Isaiah took gifts in for all of his classmates. Parts of his gifts were candy canes that contained the story of how they represent the life of Jesus Christ.
Once the teacher saw the message on the candy canes, all of them were confiscated and the teacher went to speak to the principal of the school. When the teacher returned, the teacher tossed the candy cane messages about Jesus into the garbage in front of Isaiah told him:
“Jesus is not allowed in school.”
This is another example of teachers and school administrators not knowing that students are constitutionally allowed to share their faith at and during school. Robert Tyler, General Counsel for Advocates for Faith & Freedom is hoping to educate the principal and teacher at Isaiah’s school. He sent a letter to the school district demanding that Isaiah receive a written apology for their violation of his First Amendment rights. The letter also requested that the school add a policy against the bullying and intimidation of students over their religious faith.
Tyler’s letter to the school spelled several other similar cases that had gone to court and the rights of the student were upheld. Part of the letter read:
“Therefore, any conduct that discriminates against student speech solely on the basis of religious viewpoint is forbidden and unconstitutional under California statute. Moreover, even under Tinker and its progeny, discrimination based on viewpoint is only permitted in limited circumstances that are nonexistent here. Morgan at 407. Here, the school district’s refusal to permit Isaiah to distribute the candy cane legend because of its religious content violates Isaiah’s First Amendment constitutional rights because of the complete prohibition on religious communication while freely permitting other students to distribute gifts and goodie bags without censorship of nonreligious viewpoints. Just like in Morgan, the principal would only allow Isaiah to distribute the candy canes so long as no religious message viewpoint was attached. Thus, Isaiah was a victim of viewpoint discrimination at the hands of district officials, the principal and his teacher.”
“The actions of the school district were hostile and intimidating to Isaiah. Notwithstanding the fact that he is only in first grade, he is entitled to First Amendment protection. Therefore, we demand that the school district provide a written apology to Isaiah and his family for the actions taken this last Christmas and for the policy of prohibiting all forms of religious expression at Merced Elementary.”
“In order to rectify the standing policy at Merced Elementary, we demand that the school district adopt an official policy that expressly prohibits school officials (including teachers) from adopting any action or from engaging in any expression that can reasonably be viewed by a religiously affiliated student as disapproval of the student’s religion or hostile toward the student’s religion. This policy will also need to affirm the right of students to express and communicate their own religious viewpoints on school property without fear of rebuke by school officials. This will help to ensure that young students like Isaiah are not intimidated by school officials into believing that there is something wrong with their religion or their religious views. Of course, this policy will function within the boundaries of jurisprudence that permit some limitations on speech that causes substantial disruption, promotes drug use, or is lewd or obscene.”
“Additionally, we demand that the school district adopt a policy that requires teachers and other school officials to be trained at least once per year on the First Amendment, particularly as it relates to the rights of students to express themselves with religious viewpoints and to be free from religious hostility and free from school officials’ disapproval of their religion.”
“These actions will help to provide students with an environment of neutrality and true tolerance. We would be happy to assist the school district in drafting the proposed policies and providing the training to school officials on the First Amendment. Our services may be provided pro bono under the appropriate circumstances.”
“If we do not hear from you by January 13, 2014, we will be forced to take legal action. Please contact me with any questions or to commence discussions.”
In an interview with OneNewsNow, Tyler said:
“We’re here to stand for Isaiah and, if necessary, file a federal lawsuit to ensure that his liberty interests are protected – [to ensure] that he has the right, when he goes to school, to still express his faith and share his beliefs without fear and intimidation.”
“… [P]ublic schools are becoming a place of hostility toward Christian and other religiously-based worldviews. It’s time to push the pendulum back in the right direction where kids can experience true tolerance without religiously motivated hostility from their teachers and school officials.”
With more and more of cases like this being made public and in most of them the schools are proven to be wrong, you would think that school administration officials would take notice and learn from the mistakes of others. Until that happens, thankfully we have groups like Advocates for Faith & Freedom to help students and their families when their constitutional rights are denied them.
If your kids or grandkids attend public school, don’t let the teachers or faculty bully them on their Christian faith. Teach your kids and grandkids to stand up for Jesus and if the school tries to take action against them to tell you so you can contact AFF or any other law firm that helps with these kinds of cases.