The superintendent of the Cheektowaga Central School District in New York hand-delivered an eight-page letter last June to a certain teacher concerning “Inappropriate Religious Expression” in her classroom.
The teacher, Joelle Silver, was warned about her expressions of religious beliefs because, as a public school teacher, she is part of the government and must “maintain a separation of church and state.” This episode stemmed from a complaint by one student. Instead of going to the local school board, he went directly to the foundation whose purpose is ensuring “separation of faith and government.”
The school board was forced to act and, after reviewing the two sides, went with the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Perhaps they were more afraid of lawsuits by that group than by Christians.
The teacher was required to take down posters with religious messages, notes with Bible quotes, and a “prayer request” box used by the school’s Bible Study Club.
Ms. Silver complied by getting rid of the offending material. Many feel that this sort of banning Christians from openly praying is symptomatic of the problems facing students and society in general. One has to wonder.
To her credit, Silver is fighting back. She filed last week in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, charging the school with violating her First Amendment rights and treating her with hostility because of her Christianity.
Among those “offending messages” were two notes containing quotes by President Ronald Reagan, asserting that, “without God democracy will not and cannot endure” and “If ever we forget that we are One nation Under God, then we will be a Nation gone under.”
One person is offended by Christian messages, and the rest of us are deprived of the wisdom? Wisdom such as: “Be on guard. Stand true to what you believe. Be courageous. Be strong. And everything you do must be done in love.” This seems to be good advice for anyone, but because the source happens to be the Bible, it is considered offensive.
The school district instructed Silver that she may hide away -- in a private folder -- the messages and inspirational Bible verses she previously had kept on her desk.
She also may keep a Bible, provided it is tucked away in a drawer so that it would not be visible to any students. This is how we are “protecting” our students? By purging references to God?
I wonder if any of the public school teachers in Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School were praying as they ran from the deranged killer. If so, would another teacher or possibly a student have called the Freedom From Religion Foundation to report them?
Rebecca Markert, an attorney for the organization, said: “Public employees, including teachers, have to act neutrally with regard to religion. They cannot push any religion.”
But, as Charles Spurgeon said: “The greatest enemy to human souls is the self-righteous spirit which makes men look to themselves for salvation.” I definitely see some irony here, Ms. Markert.