Teachers Told Not to Bow Heads or Pray in Public: Run and Hide if you Want to Pray

A Tennessee school district is under fire after a group of middle school football coaches were reprimanded for bowing their heads during a post-game prayer and teachers were warned to hide from students if they chose to pray during a nationally organized prayer event.

Sumner County school officials sent guidelines to staff members in advance of today’s “See You At the Pole” prayer event. Christian teenagers around the nation are gathering around their campus flag poles before class to pray for their schools, the nation and each other.

“When a teacher or administrator participates in events such as See You at the Pole, it is possible for a student to confuse a teacher or administrator’s personal speech with their official speech,” read a portion of the guidelines obtained by The Tennessean.

Teachers have not been banned from praying, but if they do – it must be done out of sight and earshot of students, the newspaper reported.

Sumner County school officials declined multiple requests for interviews.

“To tell the teachers that they cannot attend ‘See You At The Pole,’ which occurs before school hours, just doesn’t seem to be constitutional,” David Landrith, pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church, wrote on his blog. “This is the United States of America.”

Landrith said he is a “pro-school” pastor and typically doesn’t get “fired-up” about politics. However, he decided to speak out once he began hearing reports that rights of Christian students and teachers have been under attack.

“Teachers have expressed to me that it is being communicated to them that they cannot do certain things: things like wear or display a cross, have a Bible on their desk in their office, have Scripture verses displayed in their personal work space, listen to Christian music in their office, or participate in a prayer at a Christian organization such as FCA or Bible study,” Landrith said.

He also alleged that one high school has forbidden students from handing out fliers about a Bible Study.

“You can’t ban people from practicing their faith in the marketplace – whether it’s a Muslim, Buddhist, or a Christian. Christianity should not be favored over other religions. However, Christians should have the same rights as everyone else.”

The prayer warning came just days after a group of football coaches at Westmoreland Middle were reprimanded after they joined their players for a student-led post-game prayer in the end zone.

The coaches were summoned to the principal’s office after someone witnessed the coaches bowing their heads – and notified school authorities.

“The idea that a coach or teacher cannot bow their head out of respect for student-led prayer is, quite frankly, ridiculous,” Landrith wrote.

However, an attorney for the school district told Fox News Radio there is not a ban on teachers or coaches bowing their heads.

“They were not told to not bow their heads,” David French, an attorney with the American Center for Law and Justice. “They were reminded that student-led events must remain student-led. Teachers cannot give the appearance of endorsing the student’s message.”

The school’s new policy prohibits staff members from engaging in “any conduct that creates an appearance of endorsement of the organization’s or club’s messages or ideas.”

The policy was written in response to a lawsuit filed last May by the American Civil Liberties Union, alleging the school district has endorsed Christianity and violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The American Center for Law and Justice is representing the school district in the lawsuit. The ACLU declined to comment for this story.

“This whole tempest is the poisonous fruit of the ACLU tree,” French said, suggesting the school system is being especially cautious in light of the lawsuit. “It’s easy to imagine in a scenario where they are dealing with this incredibly aggressive attack from the ACLU that a public prayer would cause people to question it.”

The four coaches who bowed their heads were required to sign a letter stating that they understood the school’s policy. French said it was not a formal reprimand.

“There was no admonition against bowing,” he said. “They were asked to sign their understanding of school board policy regarding student participation.”

However, according to a copy of the letter obtained by Fox News Radio, the coaches were threatened with losing their positions of they violated the policy.

“If I fail to follow board policy, then I realize that I will not be allowed to serve as a coach,” the letter read.

So, are teachers and coaches allowed to simply bow their heads and join students in prayer?

“It’s a gray area,” French said. “It’s very contextual. With those guidelines in place, the staff members have to be cognizant of their surroundings and appearances and perceptions.”

The key, French said, is the student’s free speech rights.
“This is a policy that protects religious expression,” he said. “It doesn’t inhibit it.”

But that’s not how many Christians in the community feel about the rules.

“The House and Senate open with prayer,” he said. “The White House sponsors a National Day of Prayer,” Pastor Landrith said. “Good grief, even our presidents are sworn into office with their hands on a very visible Bible. But somehow in Sumner County our teachers cannot be a part of a student-led prayer effort?”

Courtesy of
http://radio.foxnews.com/2011/09/28/christian-teachers-coaches-under-attack/?test=latestnews

Student Punished for Christian Beliefs About Homosexuality Pushes Back

Fort Worth, TX — On Tuesday, high school freshman Dakota Ary was given in-school suspension for stating in class that he believes homosexuality is wrong because of his Christian faith. Liberty Counsel is representing Dakota in this case, demanding full vindication and a full retraction of the suspension. If the school board does not comply, a lawsuit will be filed for violation of Dakota’s First Amendment rights.

Dakota was in a German language class at Western Hills High School on Tuesday when the topic of homosexuality arose. “I’m a Christian and, to me, being homosexual is wrong,” Dakota said to one of his classmates. His teacher overheard the comment, wrote Dakota an infraction, and sent him to the principal’s office. The class topic was religious beliefs in Germany. During the discussion, one student asked what Germans thought about homosexuality in relation to religion. Another student then asked to hear some translated terms such as “lesbian.” These questions provoked the conversation about Christianity and Dakota’s expression of his opinion to one classmate.

The discipline referral form says the comment was out of context, even though the lesson for the day was on religious beliefs. The teacher charged Dakota with “possible bullying” and indicated, “It is wrong to make such a statement in public school.” Last week, the teacher displayed a picture of two men kissing on a “World Wall” and told the students that homosexuality is becoming more prevalent in the world and that they should just accept it. Many of the students were offended by the teacher’s actions and his continually bringing up the topic of homosexuality in a German language class.

Matthew Krause, Litigation Counsel for Liberty Counsel, along with Dakota’s mom, Holly Pope, met with school administrators Wednesday morning. Krause states: “Just because you walk through the schoolhouse doors doesn’t mean you shed your First Amendment rights. Dakota wasn’t disrupting class. He wasn’t bullying or harassing anybody. He was just stating his personal opinion on a topic somebody else brought up and in a civil and respectful manner.”

Liberty Counsel recently defended Florida Teacher of the Year Jerry Buell, after he was suspended for a comment he made outside of class on his personal Facebook page, expressing his disapproval of legalized homosexual marriage in New York. After a week-long “investigation,” the Lake County School Board fully exonerated and reinstated Buell.

Harry Mihet, Senior Litigation Counsel for Liberty Counsel, commented: “The double standard advocated by homosexual activists is mind boggling. Jerry Buell was suspended for opposing same-sex “marriage” outside of class. This teacher in Texas is actually bullying his students into accepting the homosexual lifestyle inside the class, and yet it is his student, not him, that gets suspended. We will vigorously defend and restore Dakota’s constitutional rights.”

Used with permission of Liberty Counsel.

 

Atheists ‘Picket’ San Diego Creation Museum Celebration

SANTEE, Calif. – About a dozen atheists holding disparaging signs towards creationism and Christianity demonstrated during the opening of the Human Anatomy Exhibit by the Creation and Earth History Museum in San Diego County Saturday.

  • Creation MuseumThe full day of events planned at the museum by its owners, the Life and Light Foundation, included celebrating National Museum Day. About 1,500 people attended the celebration, many of them parents wanting to show their children the new exhibit and addition of the museum’s Dinosaur Garden.

    In the early afternoon, atheists from various parts of Southern California assembled in front of the museum located about a 20-minute drive from San Diego. Signs included one asking, “Why Hasn’t Evolution Eliminated Creationists?” Another sign held by an atheist stated, “Thou Shall Not Lie – Creationism is NOT Science.”

    Orange County atheist group leader Bruce Gleason, who organized the field trip for his “Backyard Skeptics” to the museum event, told The Christian Post that teaching creationism harms the country.

    “We think that creationism is actually dumbing down our kids and the United States,” Gleason said. “It’s dumbing down most every home school child in the South that is taught that God created the world instead of inspiring them to think more creatively.”

    As sign holders began walking back and forth on the sidewalk in picket-like fashion in front of the museum, several Christians began engaging the atheists in one-on-one debates.

    Russell Marechale, a resident in neighboring Lakeside, brought some middle-school-age children from his church to attend the event. Later, he said he felt compelled to engage a few of the atheists in conversation.

    “I just felt like I had to respond to the one sign about humanism and morality,” Marchale said. “I asked them, ‘where does morality comes from?’ I just wanted to help them realize that deciding what’s right and what’s good doesn’t come from us, it comes from above.”

    In the middle of a busy day, museum manager Jayson Payne appeared to take the atheists’ demonstration in stride. He said he welcomes everyone from the community, no matter what their beliefs.

    When asked by CP about the atheists assembled in front of the museum, Payne said, “We just want to love them. In Acts 9, there’s the story of Saul. God changed his life, took the scales off his eyes. We just need to love on them so they can see the love of Christ. We hope they come to the reality of a Creator and hope their hearts will be softened by this event and future events.”

    Contact: alex.murashko@christianpost.com

Christian Soccer Camp Case Requests Supreme Court Review

Kansas City, MO – Today Liberty Counsel filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari at the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of Victory Through Jesus Ministry Foundation (“Victory”) in its lawsuit against Lee’s Summit School District. Victory offers Victory Soccer Camp (VSC), a Christian summer sports camp program, throughout the Midwest. The district refused to include the soccer camp’s flyers along with the other information given to students about secular community activities for youth. The petition asks the High Court to review the decision of the federal court of appeals, which incorrectly held that a school district’s granting access to a “backpack flyers” literature distribution forum to dozens of special interest groups did not open up a forum for similar groups to distribute information to students. The court also incorrectly concluded that a policy, under which school administrators could decide that literature could be distributed based upon a “symbiotic” relationship with the district, an official’s affiliation with the organization, or “to be fair,” was a reasonable and objective policy that did not vest unbridled discretion in school officials. The district discriminated against Victory by allowing other nonprofit organizations, including another local soccer program, to be promoted through take-home flyers placed in the students’ backpacks. The district refused to allow the Victory flyers to be distributed, because the organization is not on the district’s list of approved nonreligious organizations. The district’s censorship of the flyers is unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination. The Supreme Court returns to session the first week of October. Later this fall the High Court will decide whether to review the case during this term. Mathew D. Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, commented: “Christian organizations must receive equal treatment under the law. Religious speech is not an orphan to the First Amendment. These are simple and settled concepts. What possible reason, other than pure censorship, could there be for banning flyers announcing a Christian camp while allowing flyers announcing secular camps?”

ACLU Tries to Force Rhode Island School to Remove Prayer Banner

The Rhode Island Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is seeking a permanent federal injunction to force the city of Cranston, RI to remove a Christian prayer banner painted on a wall in Cranston High School West.

Image shows part of the 8-by-3-foot prayer banner. Jessica Ahlquist, a sophomore at Cranston West, is filing suit with the ACLU over the high school banner.

The banner at Cranston High School West encourages students to strive academically and begins with “Our Heavenly Father” and ends with “Amen.”

Last year, the ACLU asked the school to remove the banner after a parent complained, but school officials voted in March to keep the banner, which has been displayed since the 1960s.

The decision by School Committee members to leave the mural alone is “based not upon some desire to inject religion into the public schools, but on their belief that school history and tradition should be maintained,” they say. The mural was a gift from the school’s first graduating class.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit in May on behalf of Jessica Ahlquist, an atheist who says the banner is offensive to non-Christians. Attorneys Lynette Labinger and Thomas Bender claimed in a brief filed Friday in preparation for an Oct. 13 court hearing that Ahlquist is being deprived of her rights under the 1st and 14th Amendments.

Courtesy of http://www.christianlawjournal.com/culture/religious-freedom-news/aclu-force-rhode-island-school-remove-prayer-banner

Illegal badgering of Christian groups proves costly to University of Wisconsin-Madison

MADISON, Wis. —The University of Wisconsin-Madison has agreed to cover legal costs racked up as a result of its latest multi-year effort to discriminate against Christian students in Badger Catholic v. Walsh. ADF has been involved in six different lawsuits involving the state university system’s relentless discrimination against Christian and conservative groups.

 “Universities should recognize the constitutional rights of Christian students and ministries just as they do for all other students and campus groups,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence.  “Sadly, the University refused to do so, and instead squandered money by trying to defend the indefensible:  blatant, unlawful discrimination against Christian students and ministries.”
 
In September 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit ruled that University of Wisconsin-Madison officials violated the First Amendment by refusing to fund certain events of Badger Catholic, a registered student group, while providing funding for the events of other student organizations. The university refused to provide funds from student activity fees because the student group’s events contained religious expression, including prayer, worship, and proselytization. In March 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court denied review of the decision, allowing it to stand.
 
ADF filed this lawsuit after the university violated the terms of a settlement agreement reached in a previous lawsuit on behalf of the same group when it was known as the Roman Catholic Foundation. The federal courts again agreed with ADF and the university will cover nearly $500,000 in legal costs incurred as a result of the university’s refusal to obey the U.S. Constitution and repeated judgments against it in federal court.
ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.
 

City demands Christians get permit for Bible study

By Bob Unruh
© 2011 WND


One of San Juan Capstrano’s historic buildings

Chuck and Stephanie Fromm already have been fined $300 for holding Bible studies for their friends at their home, and they face the potential for additional fines of $500 for each study held, according to a legal team taking their case to court.

The newest conflict over Bible studies in homes in America arose in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., where city officials say city code section 9-3.301 prohibits religious organizations in residential neighborhoods without a conditional-use permit, a sometimes very expensive procedure.

The code cites “churches, temples, synagogues, monasteries, religious retreats, and other places of religious worship and other fraternal and community service organizations.”

You don’t need a permit to study America’s REAL Christian history – get the celebrated classic documentary, “Christianity and the American Commonwealth,” today only, for just $4.95!

But a Bible study in a home?

“Imposing a heavy-handed permit requirement on a home Bible study is outrageous,” said Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, which is working on the case on behalf of the Fromms.

In a city so rich with religious history and tradition, this is particularly egregious. An informal gathering in a home cannot be treated with suspicion by the government, or worse than any other gathering of friends, just because it is religious. We cannot allow this to happen in America, and we will fight as long and as hard as it takes to restore this group’s religious freedom.”

WND has reported on similar issues in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., and in Gilbert, Ariz.

In this case, the city is demanding that the home Bible study is banned because it is a “church,” unless it purchases a ‘Conditional Use Permit” from the city.

Pacific Justice said it has represented larger churches that have been required to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars as part of the permit process on such items as engineering and traffic studies, architectural designs. The process includes public hearings and ultimately can result in a rejection by the city.

Pacific Justice says the Fromms already have been fined $300, and an appeal to the city was denied.

The organization points out that the city was founded as a Christian mission in the 1700s and is home to California’s oldest building still in use, a chapel where Father Junipero Serra celebrated mass.

Pacific Justice said it is appealing the city’s demands to California Superior Court in Orange County.

A message WND left with the city did not produce a return call.

A report from the city’s Dispatch newspaper said that Fromm, publisher of Worship Leader Magazine, wanted to hold Bible studies on Wednesdays that drew some 20 people, while similar studies on Sundays attracted up to 50 to their acreage that includes their home, a corral, a barn, a pool and a huge back yard.

The newspaper said city records showed someone complained, however, and a code enforcement officer first gave them a verbal warning and then issued citations in May and June.

“We don’t like lawsuits, but we have to stand up for what’s right. It’s not just a personal issue,” Stephanie Fromm told the newspaper. “Can you imagine anybody in any neighborhood, that one person can call and make it a living hell for someone else? That’s wrong … and it’s just sad.”

A trial is scheduled for Oct. 7.

The case is similar to a previous dispute in San Diego County. There, officials apologized after a code-enforcement officer tried to shut down a Bible study.

Read more: City demands Christians get permit for Bible study http://www.wnd.com/?pageId=345073#ixzz1YQOOkkMv