Faithandthelaw's Blog

The law as it relates to Christians and their free exercise of religion

California School Board enraged by any mention of ‘God.’ Votes to appeal Court Ruling

Posted by faithandthelaw on March 11, 2010

© 2010 WorldNetDaily

Bradley Johnson and one of the two banners he was ordered to take down

Members of a California school board, unhappy that they were told by a federal court not to censor a teacher’s patriotic classroom banners that mention “God,” have voted to appeal the ruling.

The case comes from the Poway Unified School District, which lost its tussle with teacher Bradley Johnson just days earlier.

WND reported the math teacher had had banners hanging in his classroom at Westview High School in San Diego, Calif., for more than 17 years.

The banners contained historic phrases such as “In God We Trust” and “All Men Are Created Equal, They Are Endowed by Their Creator,” but the school principal ordered them torn down in 2007.

In the resulting court case, the school district was scolded by the judge.

“May a school district censor a high school teacher’s expression because it refers to Judeo-Christian views, while allowing other teachers to express views on a number of controversial subjects, including religion and anti-religion?” posited U.S. District Court Judge Roger T. Benitez in his judgment. “On undisputed evidence, this court holds that it may not.”

He continued, “That God places prominently in our nation’s history does not create an Establishment Clause violation requiring curettage and disinfectant for Johnson’s public high school classroom walls. It is a matter of historical fact that our institutions and government actors have in past and present times given place to a supreme God.”

The judge further reprimanded the school, stating that while teachers at the district “encourage students to celebrate diversity and value thinking for one’s self, [they] apparently fear their students are incapable of dealing with diverse viewpoints that include God’s place in American history and culture.”

WND calls to members of the school board and the superintendent requesting comment were not returned.

But officials with the Thomas More Law Center, who represented the teacher in the original case and are now preparing for the appeal, said such efforts to “propagandize our children” must come to a stop.

“We are in this fight for the long haul, and we intend to uphold our Constitution and the values it protects, including Mr. Johnson’s right to display his patriotic banners,” said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel for the center.

“It seems the Poway School District has a distaste for our nation’s Christian heritage represented by Mr. Johnson’s patriotic slogans. This is another example of public school boards attempting to eradicate the essential role played by Christianity in our nation’s history,” Thompson said.

In its original banishment of the posters, the school determined they were an impermissible endorsement of the Judeo-Christian viewpoint and warned they could be offensive to a Muslim student.

However, left untouched by the district were other displays, including a 35-to-40 foot string of Tibetan prayer flags with images of Buddha, a poster with the lyrics from John Lennon’s anti-religion song “Imagine” (which begins, “Imagine there’s no Heaven), a poster with Hindu leader Mahatma Gandhi’s “7 Social Sins,” a poster of Muslim leader Malcolm X and another of Buddhist leader Dali Lama.

The center confirmed it would defend the ruling before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where the appeal is scheduled to be heard.

The two banners at issue are approximately seven feet wide and two feet tall and contained phrases highlighting U.S. history. One banner with red, white and blue stripes hung on the wall for 25 years and displayed familiar patriotic phrases: “In God We Trust,” “One Nation Under God,” “God Bless America,” and “God Shed His Grace on Thee.” The other banner, on display for 17 years, contains an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence: “All Men Are Created Equal, They Are Endowed By Their Creator.”

One of the board members had released a statement questioning “what else” could go up on school walls if these displays would be allowed.

“The school district’s public statements about this case are dishonest,” said Robert Muise, a law center trial counsel handling the case. “School officials have stated under oath that they have no objection to allowing teachers to promote personal political causes such as gay rights and global warming. And they have no objection to a 40-foot display of sacred, Tibetan prayer flags in a science classroom, among countless other religious and political displays. But they do have a personal objection to Mr. Johnson’s patriotic banners because they recognize a fundamental truth that school officials dislike: God plays a prominent role in our nation’s history and heritage.”

The district court’s 32-page opinion said it simply is “a matter of fact that our institutions and government actors have in past and present times given place to a supreme God.”

The opinion also warned of the dangers of such censorship.

“By squelching only Johnson’s patriotic and religious classroom banners, while permitting other diverse religious and anti-religious classroom displays, the school district does a disservice to the students of Westview High School and the federal and state constitutions do not permit this one-sided censorship,” the judge wrote.

“When defendant Westview High School Principal Kastner ordered Johnson to remove the banners, she and the school district were silencing speech. When Principal Kastner ordered Johnson to remove the banners ‘because they conveyed a Judeo-Christian viewpoint,’ Kastner was impermissibily squelching speech based upon the viewpoint of the speaker,” the original ruling said.

Courtesy of wnd.com at http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=127412

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